Join Brenda Bailey-Hughes for an in-depth discussion in this video Paraphrasing what was said, part of Effective Listening.
- The literal definition of paraphrasing means "to summarize a message with fewer words." This active listening technique does two things. It tells the speaker that you're listening attentively, and it allows you to check your understanding and focus on the core of the message. If you paraphrase something that's not along the lines of their message, hopefully the speaker will communicate it again and give you a different example. Paraphrasing can sound like this: "So you're saying that..." "You're upset because..." "Can I take a minute and tell you what I've heard so far?" "Here's what I hear you describe happened to this point..." I sharpened my skills of this active listening behavior when I worked in human resources and did conflict resolution.
Often, when our office got involved, two employees were not talking at all, and the atmosphere was vitriolic. I would spend time listening to each and paraphrasing to try and understand the situation, their viewpoint, and their overall needs. I specifically remember the long discussions with Michael, a long-tenured employee in a complex organization. He was angry, he was frustrated, and full of specific examples when we first met. The problem was that his speaking was all over the place.
It jumped from old examples, things that others said, specific interactions with his "trouble" colleague, and his interpretations. Paraphrasing allowed me to give the information back to him and let him identify what his priorities were, what the most important issues were for him, and what he wanted as an end result. Practice your paraphrasing and clarifying lines next time you have a chance to listen. Both will allow you to bring value and focus to your active listening.
- Recalling details
- Avoiding distractions and the feeling of being overwhelmed
- Clarifying your role
- Using attentive nonverbal cues
- Paraphrasing what was said
- Matching emotions and mirroring