Looking for techniques for effective facilitation? In this first part of our facilitation techniques series, we’ll dive into paraphrasing: what it is and how to use it.
What is Paraphrasing?
Paraphrasing is restating a person’s idea in your own words. This shows that you not only heard them but understood them as well. Asking for confirmation after paraphrasing can be especially powerful: “Did I get that right?” This invites that person to correct your understanding if needed.
When To Use Paraphrasing
Paraphrasing can be used one-on-one or in group settings to confirm the meaning of what has been said. It’s especially useful for identifying and clarifying the central ideas of participants who are long-winded or emotional. Paraphrasing also builds the speaker’s confidence that you are listening and understanding.
Paula, the product owner, has gathered a group of stakeholders together to discuss their plans for developing a new mobile app.
Paula: We’re planning to release this as a mobile app but we haven’t decided if we want to release on iPhone or Android first.
Ivan: I don’t know why we are even considering Android as a starting point. All of our previous apps have launched on iPhone first. The first two did really well because there are so many more iPhone users. The third one, I don’t know, maybe it just wasn’t the right app at the right time. But still, I think that our track record speaks for itself and we should stick to launching on iPhone first. Maybe we don’t even need to do the Android version?
Paula: It sounds like you’re in favor of releasing to iPhone first because that’s what we’ve done with our previous apps and it worked well for us. Is that what I’m hearing?
Anna: We always release on iPhone first. It’s time to shake things up and capture a new market. There’s a ton of stuff already out there for the iPhone, but nobody is doing what we do on Android yet. We should make our stand on Android for once. The right time is now!
Paula: I think what I’m hearing is that since there aren’t competing apps on Android, we can capture the whole market if we start there. Yes?
Anna: Yes, I think this is the best way forward.
Paual picked up the most important points from each person’s statement and shared them succinctly in their own words. She then waited for validation to confirm that the understanding was correct.
The Agile Learning Labs Players Demonstrate Paraphrasing
Get together with at least one other person and take turns as follows:
- The speaker will say something in a somewhat long-winded manner.
- The facilitator paraphrases what was said.
- The speaker then provides feedback to indicate how well the facilitator understood and restated their idea.
- Rotate roles to allow everyone to practice.
Multiple people can practice as facilitators, each offering up their paraphrase. The speaker can share insights about which paraphrase worked best, and why.