Real listening is a psychological process that involves imagination and comprehension. The goal is to be able to listen to understand, before speaking to be understood; the communication skill is called “active listening”.
Paraphrasing is a key component of active listening because it clarifies assumptions so well. In a paraphrase, you demonstrate interest in and respect for the other person’s point of view while checking out your understanding. Each party then has an opportunity to correct misunderstandings and accept responsibility for their thoughts and feelings. When handled well, the exchange builds rapport and facilitates positive communication.
To paraphrase, use your own words to explain what you think you heard the other person say. In paraphrasing people make statements such as, “In other words, you feel that …” or “So, what you’re saying is …”. For example:
I say, “This reorganization is too confusing. We don’t know who’s responsible for what anymore.”
You say, “So, what you’re saying is that you’re not sure which role each of us will be playing in the new matrix system.”
Yes or no; it doesn’t matter. You’re checking it out, rather than proceeding on an assumption.
I say: “No. I mean I don’t know who will be responsible for completing the monthly reports that our commissions are based on.”
Ah, good point. Let’s get that one straightened out right away!
If you still don’t seem to be getting through, remember that resistance is a key barrier to effective communication. You cannot eliminate head-on because resistance is the negative expression of an unmet need.
Keep probing, with empathy and openness, and your communication will be become more effective.
Copyright(c) 2015 Carol J. Sutton Cert.ConRes.