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Paraphrasing; summarize and recap

Watch E.I. showcase paraphrasing and recapping techniques in a conversation with Dr Beck.

The final two key characteristics of active listening are “paraphrasing” and “summarize and recap”. The above video shows EI paraphrasing in a conversation with Dr Beck, so let’s start with that.


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Taking the liberty of saying the same thing by paraphrasing with different words is useful to make sure you understand what’s been said so well that you can say it differently.

Using the same words is useful if you are talking about facts or specific behavior (repetition). When talking about thoughts, feelings and desires, if you really want to understand what a person is trying to communicate, it is best to paraphrase.

In these circumstances, people often speak using a very subjective vocabulary. So, if people use some words — e.g. metaphors and similarities — they are communicating their subjective experience.

If we just repeat word for word what the speaker is saying, we might not show that we have grasped what they really mean. After all, the same sentence said by ten different people could mean ten different things.

By paraphrasing, we can show the speaker what we’ve understood correctly, and what we have not.

Summarize and recap

A graphic of two people talking. They are both contributing to the same speech bubble. A green string connects their heads, passing over the speech bubble.

Summaries and recaps are useful to make sure you understand what’s been said. When you’re the speaker, asking your audience to provide their own summaries can help you reach complete clarity (as your summary will only be from your perspective).

When summarizing, try to stay true to what you heard. Use the same words as the speaker used and stick to the facts. You need to be open to others adding further insight you may have missed.

Here’s a suggested paragraph for you to use on recap emails and documents. At BoxPlay this is part of every one of our weekly status reports. Try it!

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Each time you provide a recap, give the other person the opportunity to confirm what you say and correct any inaccuracies.

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Active Listening: How to Be an Effective Communicator

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