Let's talk about paraphrasing and why in my view it is a very important principle to know and to understand. A paraphrase is an accurate response to the person who’s speaking, which states the essence of the speaker’s words in the listener’s own words. To put it another way to paraphrase is to express the meaning of something written or spoken using different words in order to achieve greater clarity. (And that what I just did was an example of paraphrasing).
So if I’m talking to someone and they’re explaining something to me, what I would do is paraphrase what they just said but in my own words. For example, let’s say that my wife is talking about her day and what she did at work and she is explaining the process of doing someone's taxes to me. So she says:
“One of my clients got all upset because they didn’t receive the whole amount they expected from their tax return and they threw a fit in the office.”
And then I would say “So they got mad because it was less than what they thought.” It’s as simple as that. You can paraphrase what someone says to you and you can also paraphrase something you said (Like how I did earlier). So now let’s talk about what goes into paraphrasing.
The Essential Elements of Paraphrasing Are:
- Condensed. A good paraphrase is accurate. When people begin using this technique, they tend to be too wordy. A paraphrase should be shorter than the speaker’s statement.
- Only the essentials. An effective paraphrase reflects only the essentials of the speaker’s message. It cuts through the clutter of details and focuses on what is central in the original message.
- Focus on the Information. Another Characteristic of a paraphrase is that it focuses on the content of the message. It deals with the facts or ideas rather than the emotions the sender is expressing. Even though a firm distinction between facts and feelings is artificial, paraphrasing focuses on the content of the message.
- Stated in the listener’s own words. The listener summarizes their understanding of what they heard in their own words. Repeating the speaker’s exact words (which is parroting) usually stifles or dry’s up a conversation, while paraphrasing, when used appropriately, can contribute greatly to the communication between people.
Example of Paraphrasing
Here is another example of paraphrasing:
Person A says “I want to bring you up to speed on a particular project. I talked with Claire, and she has been meeting with people at the state level for weeks about the funding. Things sound really up in the air. We should proceed with caution until we know more.”
One way we can paraphrase this statement is by saying “So the whole project is dependent on whether or not state funding goes through.”
This is just a quick example but there are many ways you can use paraphrases.
Always remember paraphrasing is very useful because it shows the person or people we are talking to that we are actively listening to them and that we understand what they are communicating with us. It is also helpful when you are teaching or giving instructions to a group of people. To paraphrase, it's a great principle to use when communicating. Believe me, the ability to paraphrase helps a whole lot especially in meetings with important people in your career and life.