I recently had the privilege of hearing a presentation by Ron Karr, President of the National Speakers Association.   During his workshop, he had us do an exercise that quickly illustrated why we often have difficulty with our communication.  He gave us a seemingly simple word – race – and asked us to write down 10 words that came to mind when we heard that word. Then we all compared notes.

How many similarities were there at our table?  In the room?  Hardly any! Such a simple word, yet we were all over the board. No wonder we experience miscommunication so often as we attempt to string words together to share complex thoughts, feelings or ideas.

In communication, the goal is to stay out of the world of assumption, gather as many facts as possible, and create a meeting of the minds.

But how often do we actually achieve that?  How often have your conversations instead resulted in unnecessary frustration, missed deadlines, lost productivity all because, “Oh, I didn’t know what you meant!”

I often find myself encouraging my clients to use clarifying conversations to aid communication.  If all of us would take on the personal responsibility to clarify and assure that everyone involved is having the same conversation the world would be a much simpler place!

The goal is to finish a conversation with no unanswered questions and no feeling of confusion, puzzlement or, “I’ll just figure it out later.”

Here are some phrases and questions to use to ignite a clarifying conversation. I created the list after one of my clients told me he was tired of asking, “can you please clarify that for me?”  There are many ways to say the same thing, even when you are just trying to understand.

1. Can we circle back to that point you made earlier?

2. Before we hang up, let me take a moment to make sure I have all that I need to take care of that for you.

3. Help me understand what that phrase means to you.

4. I want to make sure I am understanding you completely.

5. Can you paint a picture for me?

6. What I think I hear you saying is this…….is that correct?

7. When you say that I think of this…….Is that correct?

8. When you use the word ………..I think this.  Is that the definition you had in mind?

9. When you say ……….. what does that mean to you?

10. Are you saying……….?

11. Let me reiterate what I think I heard.

12. I just want to clarify……..

13. I think I understand you, but let me make sure.

14. I’m not sure I get the gist of what you are saying.

15. I want to make sure that we are both on the same page.

16. I don’t understand this part.

17. I am not familiar with that.

18. What outcomes are you looking for?

19. What were you hoping to accomplish here?

20. I want to make sure we can make a distinction between….this….and …..that.

21. Sometimes I get ahead of myself.

22. Can we go over this list one more time to make sure I’ve got everything?

23. Is this clear to you?

24. Do you feel comfortable with the information I’ve presented?

25. Do you have any questions?

26. Are you following me?

27. Are you following this line of thinking?

28. Have I brought you up to speed?

29. Do you need anything further from me at this point?

30. Do you see where we might have gone off track?

31. Do you understand the end goal?

32. Are we on the same page?

33. Can you restate what you’ve heard to make sure I am communicating this well?

34. It sometimes takes me a minute to let it all sink in.  Can I restate it to make sure I’ve got it?

35. In what way can I help with this?

36. Where do you see my role fitting in this activity?

37. What tasks do you need me to handle?

38. What deadline are we working under for this project?

39. Going forward, how often will we do this?

40. Which part of this is most relevant?

41. Is this information fact based or assumption?

42. How much time do you anticipate this taking?

43. Can you provide a bit more explanation for that last piece?

44. Can you provide a bit more detail for that section?

45. Can we take a deeper dive into that concept?

46. I feel like we are taking the 5,000 foot perspective.  Can we take a closer look?

47.  Can you help me draw the distinction between what you are saying and ……..?

48.  Do you have any additional thoughts to share?

49.   Can you share the thought process that led you to that conclusion?

50. Can you share the facts as you see them?


If you need any additional help with your communication or team relationships I’m just a phone call or email away.  I would love to help!


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