a. Providing summaries b. Asking for summaries c. [ Checking for clarity If, as suggested in the introductory section, misunderstanding is frequent and perhaps the norm, it's important for you to know that your conversational partners are clear about the key facets of your story, the main points of your message, the highlights of your point of view, or the central factors of your case. Summaries help a great deal, but even summaries can be misunderstood.
There are two ways of checking more directly for understanding. First, check for clues that you have been understood. Second, ask directly.
Looking for clues
As every comedian or public speaker knows, an audience can provide all sorts of clues about how well the performance is going down. After ‘reading’ the audience's reaction, the experienced performer might say to himself: "My timing seems to be off. I need to slow down a bit." Or the speaker at a conference might say to herself, "Their eyes are beginning to wander. I had better cut this short and end with a bang."
Good communicators, when in the Explainer/Teller role, also look for clues in the other person's reaction to what they are saying. One valuable source of information is, as we have seen, body language - everything from facial expressions to hand movements and posture. Some common warning signs are: wandering eyes, fiddling fingers, shuffling feet, a secret glance at a watch, and a slumping posture.
Not all clues are nonverbal. The ways in which Understanders respond provide the best clues. Consider Virginia. She has been telling her oldest son, who is married and has three children of his own, that he doesn't have to spend as much time as he does ‘watching out’ for her. She thinks he's stealing too much time from his own family. And, anyway, she is not as ‘helpless’ as he sees her to be. She is trying to get these messages across to him on one of his many visits.
At one point she says
, "Owen, I actually enjoy the daily household chores. ... (More)