Now we know how to reconnect with our inner curiosity, learned that each and every one of us is unique and valuable, and discussed some ways to use questions to bring out that uniqueness in our interlocutors. Let’s move on!
Finding out interesting and valuable information about the people we communicate with is great, but we need to make sure they feel listened to and understood. This is what today’s lesson is about.
Depending on the situation, it helps to repeat back to the interlocutor in your own words what they have told you. This, I have noticed, serves two purposes: it helps you verify that you’ve understood the message, and it reassures the other person that you are truly listening. This is especially important when we notice our tendency to miss out on what the other is saying because we’re focusing on our own answer instead. This is especially important if the topic you are discussing is sensitive or complicated, or when you need to check facts.
Speaking of checking facts, I’ll give you an example of a silly fail from my beginnings as a journalist. I found a little old lady in the hospital who had been attacked by a neighbor who tried to drown her in a cesspool. Luckily, another neighbor had saved her. In my article (which appeared on the front page, no less), I mistakenly swapped the names of the two neighbors! Leaving aside the gross journalistic error of not even attempting to find the neighbors to corroborate the story, I couldn’t even get their names right! All sorts of trouble ensued as the savior called me the following day to say he’d read his name in the newspaper….
Go ahead and try paraphrasing in your conversations today. Don’t worry about feeling a bit silly repeating what people are saying back to them. You may be surprised to discover you actually understand the message a bit better—and they feel more listened to.
“If you understand each other, you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man never leads to hate and almost always leads to love.”
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