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Clarifying and Clarification

In communication, clarification involves offering back to the speaker the essential meaning, as understood by the listener, of what they have just said. Thereby checking that the listener's understanding is correct and resolving any areas of confusion or misunderstanding.

Clarification is important in many situations especially when what is being communicated is difficult in some way. Communication can be 'difficult' for many reasons, perhaps sensitive emotions are being discussed - or you are listening to some complex information or following instructions. This page provides dialogue and examples of clarification and how you can use this simple technique to improve your communication skills.

The Purpose of Clarification is to:

  • Ensure that the listener's understanding of what the speaker has said is correct.
  • Reassure the speaker that the listener is genuinely interested in them and is attempting to understand what they are saying.

Some examples of non-directive clarification-seeking questions are:

  • “I'm not quite sure I understand what you are saying.”
  • “I don't feel clear about the main issue here.”
  • “When you said ........ what did you mean?”
  • “Could you repeat ...?”

Clarifying involves:

  • Non-judgemental questioning.
  • Summarising and seeking feedback as to its accuracy.

Guidelines for Clarifying

Clarification is the skill we use to ensure that we have understood the message of the speaker in an interpersonal exchange. When using clarification follow these guidelines to help aid communication and understanding.

  • Admit if you are unsure about what the speaker means.
  • Ask for repetition.
  • State what the speaker has said as you understand it, and check whether this is what they really said.
  • Ask for specific examples.
  • Use open, non-directive questions - if appropriate.
  • Ask if you have got it right and be prepared to be corrected.

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