When In Doubt Clarify


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Most of us don’t like uncertainty and doubt. Now that presents a very difficult problem when it comes to communication. Even on a simple level we have the communication complication between what we actually said and what we thought we said and what a person thought they heard you say and what they actually heard you say.

Thus one of the best tools to help with communication is to clarify. I call it going “one down” or being humble. Even though you feel sure you know what you heard you can come back to the person with such questions and statements as:

“I’m not sure I’m right, are you saying_____________________?

“I’m not quite sure I understood what you said, did you say _________________? “Would you repeat that for me I’m not sure I got it all?”

“Please clarify that for me, I want to be sure I got it all right.”

Use a clear curious tone of voice not a condescending or sarcastic tone. Sometimes you, and even they, will be surprised at how it comes across significantly different with just a few words changed repeating it a second time. This could be because they hit an emotional button of yours the first time, or they actually thought about it and said it differently the second time. In either case you don’t have to avoid, mind read, ruminate, or do other non helpful to communication activities. Once it is clear, you may or may not like it but you know the truth, not just what you were assuming was the truth.

Use this Card to…

  • Prompt you to clarify in communication rather than assume
  • Discipline you to ask for more information without being sarcastic, condescending, or rude
  • Remind yourself that, albeit only a remote chance, you may misunderstand at times
  • Improve your listening skills