Simple reflections are direct reflections of what the person has said, but using your own words or synonyms. Complex reflections are trying to reflect an underlying sense or feeling of what the person has said. 

We don’t have to repeat what the person is saying all the time. Simple reflections are made every now and then.

The person you are talking to says: I'm so lonely.

You might respond:

  • You are alone. (Reflection, Simple)

  • You do not have anyone to talk to. (Reflection, Complex)

  • You find it hard to connect with others. (Reflection, Complex)

A reflection shows that the interviewer is actively listening to the person and encourages them to talk more about what is reflected. The person may, by reflection, get confirmation that the interviewer put in the effort to understand.

The interviewer will guide the conversation by choosing to reflect on some things the person says and let some others pass. It is a central function: what the interviewer reflects is what’s more likely to be talked about. In MI, the interviewer actively reflects when the person says something about the importance of a change or the confidence to succeed in a transition to enhance readiness for change. For example:

The person you are talking to: I have to do something about my situation.


  • You must do something about what is happening. (Reflection, Simple)

  • It's going down to a lot of trouble for you. (Reflection, Complex)

  • You can not go on like this. (Reflection, Complex)

Reflection is perceived as more empathetic and facilitates the person to continue to speak on the same line of thought. Reflections help the person to come to an end with their story or to deepen their story.

Today’s task
Unlike the questions, reflections difficult to prepare in advance. However, we can consider them retrospectively. Think back to some of your recent conversations and about a few complex reflections that you could have made. Try to make simple and complex reflections this week.