LISTENING TO PARAPHRASE
Paraphrasing lets the other person know you are trying to understand his/her problem. This communication tool also clarifies communication, slows the pace of interaction, reduces emotional intensity, helps elicit more information and enhances your analysis of the situation.
Paraphrasing may also help focus the other person on the problem and reduce repetition.
PARAPHRASING = LEAD IN + RESTATING CONTENT & FEELINGS
The purpose of a lead-in is to assure the other person that you are not trying to tell them how they are feeling. You are simply checking your understanding of the problems and affirming his feelings. In the process you may help him organize his thoughts and identify the real problem.
Use a variety of lead-ins such as:
* "I wonder if . . ."
* "Could it be that . . .
* "It sounds like . . ."
* "It seems like . . ."
* "I gather that . . ."
* "Is it correct to say . . ."
* "As I hear it . . ."
* "You appear to be . . ."
* "I guess that . . ."
THE OTHER PERSON'S NEEDS ARE OFTEN VERY BASIC (E.G., RESPECT, SECURITY, RECOGNITION) AND THOSE FEELINGS CAN BE BROUGHT TO LIGHT BOTH VERBALLY AND NONVERBALLY.
FIRST, listen for and paraphrase feelings (mad, sad, glad, afraid).
NEXT, Choose a word or phrase that describes the exact feeling and level of intensity.
REMEMBER, anger frequently covers fear, pain, and powerlessness.
WHEN THE INTENSE EMOTIONS BEGIN TO SUBSIDE, YOU CAN THEN SWITCH TO PARAPHRASING THE FACTUAL CONTENT OF THEIR MESSAGE.
PARAPHRASING = STATING IN YOUR OWN WORDS WHAT THE OTHER SAID
*Focus on the speaker "So you believe strongly . . ."
*Include facts and feelings "You were very unhappy when she . . ."
*Be brief "The way you see it is . . ."
PARAPHRASING LETS THE OTHER PERSON KNOW YOU ARE TRYING TO UNDERSTAND, CLARIFIES COMMUNICATION, SLOWS THE PACE OF INTERACTION, REDUCES INTENSITY, HELPS ELICIT MORE INFORMATION AND FACILITATES SITUATION ASSESSMENT.
Cautions: Do not make evaluations or judgments.
Avoid stereotyped responses.
Be careful about timing.
Be careful about "overstating."
PRACTICING PARAPHRASING -- WRITE OUT THE WAY YOU WOULD VERBALLY PARAPHRASE THE FOLLOWING STATEMENTS:
1. Our committee has been meeting every week now for two months. No matter what the proposal or idea expressed, Bob acts like a wet blanket. We only have one more month to complete the plan and implement it; we're running out of time. All he says is, "No, I don't think if is practical," or, "No, we don't have enough money," or, "No, we need more information.." We're getting no where fast. The rest of us feel like resigning from the committee.
2. You just don't understand what it's like to have to sit through staff meetings like the one we had today! I don't feel I can be attentive because I am so upset. At times I felt like getting up and leaving.
3. No! that's not what I said. That is not what I want. If no one cares about my opinion and feelings, maybe I should leave this department. Maybe I'm the odd ball here and you all would be happier if I weren't around.
Last Updated June 17, 1998.