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The Dos And Don’ts Of Ensuring Understanding

We all know the price we pay when there are misunderstandings. We waste time, energy and resources. We may also damage morale, support, and even entire relationships.

Clarifying quickly, lightly and often is the key to preventing misunderstandings and assumptions. But what are some things to watch out for?

If you’re checking that another person has understood you:

Don’t ask

“Do you understand?” or “Any questions?”

Too many of us are embarrassed about admitting that we don’t understand. You will likely not get a truthful answer.

Do ask

“What are your questions?”

This gives them permission to have questions and encourages them to ask.

“I just want to make sure we’re on the same page here. Can you tell me what you understand so far?”

Getting them to retell what you’ve just said is the best way to ensure they’ve understood. But never say, “I want to make sure you understand.” It may make look as though you see them as unintelligent. Instead, say “I want to make sure we are on the same page.”

If you need to clarify what someone else has said:

Don’t ask

“Can you repeat that?”

This dumps all the responsibility on them. They now must either probe to find out what exactly you need clarification on. Or they are forced to repeat the whole thing.

Do ask

“I understand what you said about the invoicing procedure, but I didn’t get the steps to follow if they don’t pay on time. Could you repeat that part?”

Starting with what you did understand builds trust that you’ve listened, and it helps them manage their reply.

The keys to clarifying are to do it lightly and gently but often. Your counterpart will be as grateful as you that you are in synch with each other throughout the conversation.

Article written by Marianna Pascal

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© Shirley Taylor.
Shirley is a high-energy, high-content speaker who is passionate about motivating individuals to make a real difference in our automated world. With inspiring stories and a fun style, she engages audiences quickly, and encourages them to embrace high-touch as well as high-tech so they can connect with heart.

Shirley has been a trusted member of the professional speaking and training community for many years, and has received several awards for her services in leadership. She served as Asia Professional Speakers Singapore President 2011-12 and as Global Speakers Federation President 2017-18. She has spoken in almost 20 countries all over the world.

Author of 12 books published by international publishers, Shirley has established herself as a leading authority in workplace communication, business writing, and email. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition has sold over half a million copies worldwide and been translated into 17 languages.

If you would like Shirley to speak at your next event, visit

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