Creating clarity around tasks - the value of paraphrasing

So as a mom I am often asking my young boys to do things. As they have gotten older, I have asked them increasingly complicated series of things to accomplish, some of which need to be done sequentially. Many days I bark the orders and head off to get something else done, trusting it will happen, and many days, as I am sure you can imagine, this ends in frustration.

So some days when its not as busy and I have the time and patience to dig into my tool kit of communication skills, I reflect on on what I have to draw on and then apply.

Today I am focusing on providing direction, but also prompting information retention and task clarity. These same skills are applicable from young to old, as the assigner of the task or the assignee.

It goes a little something like this - I make sure that I have the persons attention by first engaging them directly rather than shouting from another part of the room, I make proper eye contact, address them by proper name, and remove distractions (toys/books/electronics) temporarily to limit the external noise impacting the message.

Then I state my intention, that I am asking them to do something. After I have provided the task, I ask them to repeat back to me in their own words what they are supposed to do. Once they have done so I am able to correct or clarify anything that they may have misunderstood clarifies and thing I may have misspoke, and provides opportunity to correct it. Then I have them paraphrase again. There may be need to ask them what they think a certain task entails, to make sure the more complex components are understood, or to see if they need some further explanation if they are unfamiliar with how to do something, they can ask for clarity. You can promote this by asking them to describe how they will accomplish the task. It is important to include the time frame in which the task needs to be accomplished.

This process ensures both parties have confidence that they know what needs to happen, when it needs, to happen, how it will happen, and so on. This simple task of paraphrasing and prompting for understanding will also drastically help improve memory retention of the task as they have engaged with the material, rather than just parroted (repeated it back).

Try it next time and see how much more effective your to-do lists become!

And if errors are made it creates the basis for open conversation to understand what/where it all went sideways.

This whole interaction may take a short amount of time extra, but I promise, it will lead to more lasting success for the things that need to get done. A good communicator sets the stage for others to have successful interactions with simple skills like this.

For more examples and engaging opportunities for coaching on this topic, check out my course offerings, leave a comment on this post, or message me with your questions!

Trish MorotoComment