Focus on Listening by Restating

Over the past two weeks I have been revisiting listening, a skill I examined in a blog post a year ago. Listening is critical for productive group problem solving. Two weeks ago, I wrote about quieting our minds so we can focus on the person speaking. Last week, I explored behaviors that we can adopt to both support our focus and encourage the speaker to speak by showing a listening posture. This week, I submit that our listening improves when we test our understanding of what was communicated.

Testing our understanding is a wonderful way to close the loop of communication. The speaker has spoken; the listener has listened. Now, it’s time for you, the listener, to restate what the speaker has said. That restatement can take any number of forms. Some examples include:

  • “Let me see if I have this right: you are saying that…”
  • “So if I understand you, you are saying…”
  • “I think I heard ….; is that what you were saying?”

Testing confirms for us that we got the intended message and creates conversational space for clarification if we did not. Testing also lets the speaker know if the impact and content of their words is what they were aiming for. Testing is a process that promotes understanding and clarity so that speaking and listening are both effective.

Mary’s book “Talk Matters! Saving the World One Word at a Time” is now available. Click here to purchase it.


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