What is paraphrasing?

Paraphrasing is repeating what somebody has said, using your own words.

Why use paraphrasing?

Benefits for the facilitator

The technique forces you to listen very carefully, because when the person has finished speaking, you know that you will need to repeat what was said. In addition, you have the opportunity to find out whether you really understood what was said.

Benefits for the speaking person

Paraphrasing has both a calming and a clarifying effect. It reassures the speaker that his or her ideas are worth listening to. And it provides the speaker with the chance to see if others are listening to his/her ideas. In other words, it supports people to think out loud.

Benefits for other people listening

They get a second chance to understand what the speaker has tried to share.

When to use paraphrasing?

Paraphrasing can be used when a person makes very long, complicated or confusing statements, or when a person has problems phrasing his/her own thoughts clearly.

Do not paraphrase too often as it will slow down interactions and eventually group members will become lazy listeners themselves.

How do you paraphrase?

Paraphrasing uses the following four-step model:

  1. Listen carefully.
  2. Use your own words to say what you think the person said, for example starting with:
    • ‘In other words…’ or
    • ‘Do you mean that…’ or
    • ‘It sounds like what you are saying is…’
  3. Check by saying something like:
    • ‘Is that correct?’ or
    • ‘Did I get it?’
  4. If it is not correct keep asking for clarification until you understand what s/he meant.

Paraphrase vs. Summarize

If the speaker’s statement is one or two sentences, use roughly the same number of words when you paraphrase it. If the speaker’s statement is too long, summarize it.

Paraphrase and then Probe

Probing is an incredibly useful facilitation skill.  Many times, paraphrasing for clarity, then asking a probing question can be the perfect technique to deepen discovery and discussion.



Posted on Leave a comment