By Dan Weyerhaeuser, Senior Pastor
Some instructions are so simple that they don’t seem like they would be effective. As I’m writing these weeks about developing a “conversation strategy’ that builds trust, the first word is like that. We listen well when we Repeat back to people what they are saying.
Repeating back to people what they have just shared can feel mechanical or disingenuous (and I suppose is can be if we are disingenuous). But the practice of repeating people’s words back to them is actually skillful love and listening.
Let me give a few examples of what I mean by this.
Over the last few days, I have repeated these words to people I have been listening to: “It sounds like you had a great trip,” to someone who had been out of town with their daughter. “Boy, you had a pretty rough day!” to someone who had just shared a huge struggle they were facing. “You have made great progress!” to another pastor in our community who shared about something that happened in his board. “You didn’t sign up for this!” to a teen who’s parents’ relationship is in trouble. “You are facing a big challenge far from home” to a friend who’s husband faced a medical emergency while out of town.
In each of those cases, my friends responded in one way or another by saying, “YES!” When you repeat to someone else what they’ve said, they know they’ve been heard. They know you have given them the gift of your true attention. And they have experienced the relating of a relationship. In essence, you are summarizing their story and feeding it back. Trust me when I say that this is incredibly powerful!
One quick note: Sometimes you will get it wrong. Sometimes you will repeat what someone has said and they will reply, “No, that’s not what I’m saying.” Don’t be afraid of this. I have found that people aren’t offended when you are trying to understand them and just miss it.They are glad to clarify. I can think of many times this has happened, and not once that it was met with frustration.