Few people actually have meaningful discussions where both really understand each other. Often, we talk across purposes, even about entirely different things, despite using similar words. Similar words can create the illusion that we are talking about the same thing, but only because no effort is made to clarify. So, bringing clarity to discussions is everything. And, if the other person isn’t doing it, you can!
Simple phrases that help
While creating clarity is fundamental when I coach, you can do the same in everyday discussions too. I certainly try to, particularly when the stakes are high and misunderstandings can be costly. I like to summarise the person’s position before offering any thoughts or asking further questions. Why? In order to make sure I’ve understood them completely. To make sure that we are both definitely on the same page.
I tend to use some variation of:
“Just to make sure I got it, you are saying..”
“If I understand you, what you are saying is..”
“Correct me if I didn’t get it, you are saying that..”
Often, people are not clear in their own minds about what EXACTLY they are saying. Your questions can help them clarify this. What’s more, this clarity will then support a more fruitful dialogue by really getting to the core of what they mean and want to say.
Remember too that your questions may even uncover deeper, hidden beliefs at play that the person themselves is not aware of. And, this can be very instructive when discussions become heated. For, there is almost always some deeply-held belief that is at the root of the matter. A belief that is being threatened and therefore causing an emotional reaction. Of course, this applies to you too.
Bringing clarity to discussions goes beyond words
Summarising can be useful for opening things up and getting to the heart of things. But what is even more powerful is your intention. If you truly come from a place of wanting to understand, the other will feel your intention. And, any clarifying questions you ask will have even more impact.
We can re-state the point in the opposite. If you genuinely don’t come from a place of wanting to understand, no amount of parroting clarifying phrases will lead to a fruitful discussion. Because your intention is not really to have one. If you are truly committed to clarity, your intention will very likely help them understand their own point better after talking to you! And, that is something worth aspiring to.
Harsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.