If I put your words, into my words, then say them back to you, is that paraphrasing?  You most likely answered yes to that question and I won’t tell you that you are wrong; however, I will ask you to think about this – how do I know I have understood what you MEAN by words alone?

Let me introduce you to True Paraphrasing.

Most people are not clear and direct communicators.  In other words, most people don’t say what they mean.  To understand meaning, we have to dig underneath and between words; True Paraphrasing is the way to do it.  Here’s how it works.

1. Listening requires turning your complete attention to the person who is speaking to you all while you suppress the urge to interrupt or interpret.

2. Restating meaning requires reading between the lines.

 e.g. I say, “I don’t know how to do this!”

I might mean “I am frustrated”, “I need help”, “I need to vent”, or “The way you are explaining it is confusing to me.”  Your task is to use the context of the conversation along with verbal and nonverbal cues to determine the meaning.

3. Once you think you know what the other person means, respond with your interpretation AND a question that allows the other person to confirm or disconfirm your understanding.

e.g.  “It sounds like you need some help.  Is that right?”


“I’m hearing you say you need me to explain it in a different way.  Is that correct?”  


“Am I correct in thinking you just need to vent right now?”

Congratulations!  You just learned how to use True Paraphrasing. Now you can reduce misinterpretations and enjoy better communication!