The Ben Franklin Plan: Hmmm…

15Nov09
Portrait of Benjamin Franklin
Image via Wikipedia

In honor of Ben Franklin who focused on one virtue a month each year (plus humility, which he worked on all year round on the advice of a detractor), I’m working on one life principle each week from Sunday to Saturday. Will you join me?

This week’s life principle is definitely based on the “less is more” concept.  It’s also a great strategy and a tool for the communication practice of paraphrasing.  You remember paraphrasing.  When someone says something to you, use paraphrasing to clarify and focus on listening –  in a non-judgmental way –  by repeating back what they said.  Sometimes you do it to avoid strangling them or from stating a opinion on what they said before you have time to think or fully understand their words.

An example of paraphrasing would be “So what I heard you say is that you think I’m a jerk.  Can you tell me more about that?”

Paraphrasing works.  Even when the person you are paraphrasing took the same class and knows what you are doing.  It’s hard to criticize a person who has merely repeated back to you what you just said.

Sometimes it sounds silly, though.  “I think you are a jerk.”  “So what I heard you say is that you think I’m a jerk.  Can you tell me more about that?”  “What is there to say?  You’re a jerk, that’s all, a real jerk.”  “So you’re thinking, I’m a jerk.   What does that mean to you, exactly?”

But even when it’s silly, paraphrasing seems to work.

I have, however, discovered a little secret that helps those of us who can find paraphrasing tedious.  The next time you want to 1) avoid a premature negative response, 2) keep from getting physical, 3) and ensure that you hear all of what the other person wants to communicate, say “Hmmm…”  in a “keep on talking” way.

Instead of a whole long sentence, use that one little word, or “sort of” word.

When you say, “Hmmm…” you create a big space for the other person to keep on talking.  And that is what paraphrasing is all about.

Week 7:  Hmmm…

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