Paraphrasing - How to do it well

  • What is paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is a question that is designed to clarify the listeners understanding.

It is a question that helps the listener

or in other words the Receiver of the information

to be very clear about what the Giver of the information is:


Thinking, or


In other words

  • Paraphrasing is an opportunity in the conversation for you as the listener/receiver of the information to check your perception of what has been said to make sure there are no misunderstandings and that you have the facts, feelings and/or opinions that have been communicated, very clear.
  • By paraphrasing what has been said you are simply checking back with the person you are talking to so you can evaluate your understanding of what they have said and therefore make sure you are both "on the same page".
  • Paraphrasing also allows you the opportunity to encourage further dialogue with your conversation partner. By checking your perception of the facts, feelings and/or opinions that have just been expressed you provide the giver of the information the opportunity to clarify and expand on what they have been telling you. So if you feel that your conversation has come to a dead end, try paraphrasing what has just been said and see what happens………you'll be very pleasantly surprised!

So, what does a good paraphrase look like

  • Each paraphrase is phrased as a CLOSED question - in other words it can be answered with a "Yes" or "No" answer
  • Each paraphrase starts with a prefix - e.g. "So what your saying is", "Are you saying", "So you seem", "So you think that", "So what you're saying is", "So you feel that", "Ah, so it's…..", "It sounds like", "So………", etc, etc………
  • The prefix is followed by a re-statement of what has just been said by the speaker and should be no longer than one sentence.

Let's look at these three points in greater details


Each paraphrase is phrased as a CLOSED question. 

Because a paraphrase is essentially an opportunity for the listener to check their perception of what has just been said then it should always be phrased as a closed question because you do actually want a response.

You need to be clear that your perception is in fact correct and the only way to know this is to learn how to paraphrase in such a way that you are asking a question that initially requires a YES or NO response.


Each paraphrase starts with a PREFIX - such as the examples I referred to above.

The prefix is important because this is what ensures you get a response from your question.

It is all about learning, practicing and applying this skill to your day to day conversations. Please don't feel you MUST use one of the prefix examples given here. Just use what sounds natural, genuine and appropriate for your situation and your personality and communication style.

The point is, learn how to paraphrase so you can improve the flow and outcome of your conversations and feel more confident about communicating with your prospects, customers and business partners.


Each paraphrase contains a RE-STATEMENT

The re-statement should be short, no longer than one sentence. You don't want to confuse people with a long re-statement - you'll never get clarification that way. And, you don't want your paraphrase to turn out to be a mini summary!

To be accurate your re-statement must relate back to what has previously been said. For example, "So what you're saying is that this experience made you really happy?"

The prefix is in bold and the RE-STATEMENT is underlined.

Examples of paraphrasing

Example ONE:

Other Person:

"I am really interested in learning more about your wellness products but every time I try to find out more about the products your company is selling I get a different story. I seem to get different information from everyone I speak too. No information is consistent. And then when it comes to the product prices, well I have to say, I'm totally confused - every price list I look at is different. Just to top things off, I don't know who I should be contacting to get accurate information and every time I speak to someone I seem to get conflicting advice………I'm just ready to give up on this completely!"

An inaccurate paraphrase would be:

  • "So you're reasonably happy with the information you have received on our products so far?"
  • "Are you saying you've got a complete breakdown of the products and prices?"

Possible accurate paraphrases:

  • "Are you saying that you have just not been able to access quality information about the products and the product prices?" (paraphrasing FACT)
  • "So it seems to me that you're incredibly frustrated?" (paraphrasing FEELINGS)
  • "So what you're saying is you think the customer service needs a lot of improvement?" (paraphrasing OPINION)

Example TWO:

Other Person:

"Well I have spoken with people about network marketing before and quite frankly, I wasn't impressed. It really concerns me that you have to approach your family and friends in this way - what say they're not interested? The last time someone contacted me about getting involved with network marketing they almost knocked down my door! When I answered the door they spewed their spiel all over me and I couldn't get a word in. It didn't matter what I said they just wouldn't get the message - I spent 15 minutes just trying to get them off my doorstep. I could never use those tactics on people I know, or even people I don't know for that matter. It's just not for me and quite frankly I think network marketing should be outlawed!"

An inaccurate paraphrase would be:

  • "So you were reasonably impressed with the approach used by this network marketer?"
  • "Are you saying you'd like to know more about network marketing?"

Possible accurate paraphrases:

  • "Are you saying that you would never use this kind of hard sell approach in business?" (paraphrasing FACT)
  • "So it seems to me that you're hugely annoyed and almost insulted by the approach used by one particular network marketer?" (paraphrasing FEELINGS)
  • "So what you're saying is you do not agree with the network marketing business model?" (paraphrasing OPINION)

Key point to note

You will know whether or not you have paraphrased effectively by the person's response.

If they say "YES" then well done………

You know you have hit the target and 9 times out of 10 this will encourage further discussion.

If they say "NO" then it is a good thing that you paraphrased!

You know that you have not quite understood them and that some further clarification is needed - this is a great opportunity for further discussion.

Last modified: Wednesday, 30 July 2014, 9:36 PM