Dear Reader, if I could only share 1 skill for growing connections, it would be this one! It’s easy to do, it makes a big impact immediately, and it helps all people involved in the conversation. It is so easy to do, children do it. My dog sometimes does it even though he doesn’t talk because it can also be done with body language!
To build it up even more, when I take the 2 highest items on average that clients say they want to see in their relationships it’s these two: clarity and understanding. With this 1 easy tool, more often than not you will get those things, clarity and understanding!
The tool is called Requesting Clarity, and it builds upon a communication skill known as the clarifying question. The included free worksheet, Request Clarity worksheet , walks you through your part of applying this tool and also helps you build this tool into strength. I’m sure you’ve heard of the “clarifying question” as a communication skill but the way I’m it about to walk you through it puts it into a tool I call Requesting Clarity.
I mentioned above one time this tool helps, and here are a few more times it helps:
- When you don’t feel understood;
- When another person in the conversation says you aren’t understanding them;
- When you’ve assumed you know what the other person is saying but their facial expression tells you that you missed it;
- When you’ve taken things out of context, and don’t exactly know how to respond.
- When you’re painfully aware you said something that was hurtful and have no idea what it was.
All of these situations are helped by requesting clarity! Clarification is essential day to day.
The communication tool, Clarification Question, is a form of reflection that seeks to eliminate ambiguity, confusion, or misunderstanding. Clarifying questions are used by active listeners to ensure understanding and also obtain essential information.
A clarification question can, according to the researchers at the University of Kent:
- Reflect back what the speaker is saying in other words to clarify understanding ( you do this by paraphrasing and repeating back key points).
- Summarize and bring new interpretations to the speakers words.
- Show you’re listening carefully and check that you are understanding correctly what the speaker is saying thereby allowing the speaker to confirm or correct your feedback.
- Encourage the speaker to elaborate and to define their problems
The clarification question typically can take 1 of 3 forms:
- Open – Open clarifying questions help the speaker provide more information. Asking clarifying questions that start with one of these are forms of open – “How?”, “Why?”, “When?”, “Who?”, “What?”, “Where.
- Closed – ask for a yes or no response and typically are shared in the form of restatement or a paraphrase of what you thought you heard.
- Restating – simply restates what you heard. This is done to clarify with the other person that you accurately heard what the other person said. Restating typically can start with something like, “What I think I heard you say is (fill in the blank with the words you actually heard the other person say), is that what you said?”
Now take what we know about the clarifying question and lets put it into a plan of action for growing connection in a conversation. Here’s how it could go –
- You start with understanding the context of the conversation. Write that down to help give you the context for your clarification.
- Then write out the common goal. In conversations we often share a common goal but this common goal can easily get overlooked. Often opinions, thought patterns, distractions, and lots of other things can confuse us or take us off track from our common goal. So writing that down will also keep a proper focus and grow understanding. Remembering our common goal keeps us in a mode of doing this together as a team and not two individuals trying to prove their own points of view.
- Decide which form of the communication skill, the clarifying question, to use and then check it off. Maybe you want to use a few forms and by identifying which form to use this will also help you stay focused on the goal.
- Next write out what you hear clearly and now feel that you understand. Check off the ones that the other person agrees that is what they meant.
This worksheet, Request Clarity worksheet , will truly help you grow your connections but providing a tool that grows clarity and understanding.
It’s not necessary to use the worksheet, but I think that putting together these steps help us to use the communication skill of the clarifying question and put it into a full tool.
We all want to be understood and this is a powerful, yet easy, way to get it done.
- Did a current conversation or a certain someone pop into mind as you read this blog?
- Download the worksheet!
- Which of the reflection questions were the easiest for you?
- Share this blog with someone else
Please let me know how it goes applying the Requesting Clarity tool and how you see your connections grow!
Next month we will look at 3 habits that get in the way of connection and 3 choices.
We were never designed to go through life alone, but life and adulting can make it begin to feel like that! Don’t let it stay that way! Get back to the important things of building healthy relationships and being a healthy, safe, good friend to those in your life! Together we can make a difference in bringing about healthy, safe, good growing relationships!
Liz Lawrence, MA, LPC-S is counselor, coach and creative who is passionate about people. She directs a counseling center in Austin, Texas and with husband David Lawrence co-leads the non-profit Renue.Me whose mission is to invest in the dreams of leaders in underprivileged communities around the world. Connect with her at www.lizlawrencelpc.com or www.renue.me
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