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R – Rephrase When the Message is Misunderstood

ACNA.R – Rephrase When the Message is Misunderstood

R – Rephrase When the Message is Misunderstood

The topic of today’s blog is rephrasing when the message is misunderstood. Remember several months ago, when we discussed asking for the specific part you missed? That topic was about how to best ask for repetition if the listener has missed important information. Today’s topic is similar, but instead of focusing on the listener, this topic is for the speaker.


As we discussed on March 3rd, there are many different ways of asking for repetition or repeating yourself when asked. We know that asking “what?” is not the most effective way to ask for repetition—but that does not mean that it won’t happen from time to time. As the speaker we can also take responsibility for rephrasing when someone asks for repetition, even if the listener has not given us explicit instructions to do so. Therefore, if someone who is listening to you asks “what?”, instead of simply repeating word for word what was said, rephrase, or say the message again using different words.

If we look at our scenario, imagine the man on the couch had simply turned around and said “what?” to the woman. Instead of repeating verbatim, exactly what she had already said, she could rephrase herself instead. For example, she could say: “Alan is dropping off the boxes. We need to bring them in from the truck.” When a person rephrases a statement, rather than simply repeating, the action of rephrasing often causes the speaker to slow down, use words that are easier to understand, and break down their thoughts into shorter, multiple sentences. The act of rephrasing often gives the listener more information and more time to understand what was said.

Learning to rephrase is one of the most effective ways to enhance communication and it is unfortunately often underutilized. By making a point of rephrasing when asked for repetition, you may notice a significant change in the ease of your communications with others. We have one more letter to discuss in our blog series: E-Environmental Changes. Visit us again in two weeks!

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