The Dos And Don’ts Of Ensuring Understanding2018-02-01T10:58:25+00:00

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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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© 2017 Shirley Taylor.
Shirley Taylor is a recognised leading authority on business writing and communication skills. For almost 30 years she has presented keynotes and training programmes that help people and organisations boost communication skills and develop great relationships both orally and in writing. Shirley is bestselling author of 12 books, including Model Business Letters, Emails and Other Business Documents, which has sold half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into many languages. If you would like Shirley to speak at your next event, visit

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