By September 4, 2011 0 Comments Read More →

Repeat After Me – Communicating Better

Repeat After Me – Communicating Better

Most of us feel it’s a personal failing if we have to repeat back instructions or other information, but it's a smart thing to do. Quite simply, the vast majority of us aren’t really very good at listening or remembering. And not hearing or remembering something is a sure way to miss something important.

After someone, whether it's your boss, colleague, customer or even a staff member tells you something, simply say 'if I understand correctly....and then summarize what you heard, in your own words. Even add in some quick commentary as needed to ensure clarity. Whoever is talking to you should appreciate your precision and attention to the details they are conveying.

And it's not just you. When talking to your staff, ask them to repeat it back to you so you are sure they understood what you asked them to do. If you get into a habit of doing this, everyone is more likely to have heard and understood. Mistake are often made not because people don't know what they are doing, but because they didn't hear or understand what needed to be done as clearly as they should have. By repeating it back, the communications is strengthened and getting it right is more likely.

Of course on top of repeating it back, you should take notes, even if they are short and point form while you're listening. Don't be shy to ask for a pause while you take a quick note - it's a great way to help you remember later. You should also encourage your staff to take notes during your discussion with them.

After all, verbal communications between people is poor at best, we should do what we can to make sure it is as clear as possible.

Here are some phrases you can use, and some tips to make it as effective as possible:


  • I want to make sure I've understood you correctly....
  • Just to be sure.....
  • So in summary.....
  • Do I have it right that.....
  • The way I understand it.....


  • Repeat back in short numbered points instead of long narrative, such as "point 1 is...., point 2 is...."
  • Don't just repeat back everything they said, focus on the key points, tasks, results desired, etc. only.
  • Repeat back in their terminology when possible, but when something isn't clear, or you aren’t sure what they mean, paraphrase or explain how you interpret it.
  • Ask them to confirm or clarify after you repeat back to them..
  • Take notes as well as listening. Do it in point form and let them know you are taking notes in advance so they will understand when you glance down at your notebook to write.
  • Repeat back whether you agree with what was said or not – then you can provide an alternative to what’s being asked.
  • You can use this during a private conversation or in a larger meeting.
  • Encourage your own staff to do the same.

Using techniques that improve communications is one of the easiest ways to improve results since effective communication is really not as easy as it seems. This is one way you can reduce your risk of getting it wrong and reduce the risk that your staff get it wrong.

About Michel Theriault

Michel is the founder of Success Fuel for Managers. He is an author, speaker and consultant focusing on topics relevant to Managers and aspiring Managers in businesses of all sizes who want to get results, get attention, and get ahead. He is also a contributor to Forbes and AllBusiness Experts . Michel is available for speaking engagements, training and consulting. Connect with him or send an email.

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