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Organizational Consultation XXII: Empowerment (Part Two)

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Paraphrasing has two additional benefits. First, it lets the other person know that you are interested in him it is clear evidence that you do want to understand what he means. Second, if you can satisfy the other person that you really do understand his point, he will probably be more willing to attempt to understand your views. These functions are particularly important for a group leader. Paraphrasing is crucial in attempting to bridge the gap that often separates people. It increases the accuracy of communication and, thus, the degree of mutual or shared understanding. The act of paraphrasing itself conveys feeling: your interest in the other person, your concern to see how he views things.

People sometimes think of paraphrasing as merely putting the other person’s ideas in another way. They try to say the same thing with different words. Such word-swapping may merely result in the illusion of mutual understanding, as in the following example.

Sarah: “Jim should never have become a manager.”

Fred: “You mean managing isn’t the right job for him?”

Sarah: “Exactly! Managing is not the right job for him.”

Instead of trying to reword Sarah’s statement, Fred might have asked himself, “What does this statement mean to me?” In that case the interchange might have sounded like this:

Sarah: “Jim should never have become a manager.”

Fred: “You mean he is too harsh on his subordinates Maybe even cruel?”

Sarah: “Oh, no. I meant that he has such an abundance of creative talent that his efforts are wasted as a manager.”

Fred: “Oh, I see. You think he should have gone into a field that would have insured him greater creative expression?”

Sarah: “Exactly! Managing is not the right job for him.”

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