These skills enable you to understand what another person is saying. They include new ways of responding so that the other person feels his problems and feelings have been understood.
There are three situations when we may wish to paraphrase, or re-phrase, the message we have just heard:

  • when we are uncertain of what the other person is saying;
  • when we want the sender to hear and understand what he/she has just said;
  • and when you let the speaker know you want to understand his/her message. The following discussion is limited to the last situation.

    Paraphrasing the other person’s message gives an understanding response that shows your desire to understand rather than evaluate him/her. Paraphrasing is more effective when you restate the sender’s messages in your own words rather than try to repeat the exact same words spoken by the sender. As you paraphrase, match the level of your response to the level of the speaker’s response.

    When you demonstrate your understanding by paraphrasing the message, the sender’s defensiveness or fear of being judged is reduced. A closer interpersonal relationship is built between the sender and the receiver.

  • Receiving Criticism
    Perhaps the only thing more difficult than giving criticism is receiving it. When faced with criticism, people generally respond with “fight or flight” behaviour. Fighting manifests itself as defensive, argumentative or counterattack remarks.In the long run, neither method solves the problem as effectively as (i) agreeing with the criticism or (ii) seeking more information.

    Criticisms can be based on facts, perceptions, or both. If, for example, your supervisor identifies computational errors in your work, he or she may perceive these facts as being related to inability or carelessness. Arguing about the facts (computational errors) is futile, but you can redirect the perception by pointing out that these errors are the exception, not the rule, in your work performance.

    Showing interest in what prompts the criticism can help you decide how to fix whatever prompted it. Ask for specific examples. “You’ve said I’m not presenting a good attitude to customers. Can you describe exactly what I’m doing?” (Beware of your tone!).

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