Paraphrasing is a crucial skill for dialoguing. How do you paraphrase?
One way to paraphrase is to simply reflect back the speaker’s own words. You pick out key words you have heard and repeat them. “You are saying that Obama will be a good President because….” This makes the speaker feel heard because you have picked up on their key ideas and words.
Another way to paraphrase is to summarize by putting their message into your own words. “In summary it seems your main point is that….” This lets the speaker know that you have understood their comments because you can summarize them.
Another way to paraphrase is to ask for a clarification. “I am not sure that I am getting this right. Are you saying X or Y?”
Paraphrasing should always be in the form of a question, not an assertion. The question may simply be in your voice inflection. Or you may clearly ask a question at the end of your paraphrase such as, “Did I get that right?” Or, “Is that right?” If you fail to use the form of a question, the speaker may possibly take offense because you seem to be mind reading. That means you seem to be telling them what they think, which can be intrusive, rather than just asking them if you got it right.
Similarly, paraphrase with a light touch, such as, “I wonder if you are saying….” Stay humble and your paraphrase will be welcomed.
Most of the time speakers do welcome paraphrasing because it makes them feel heard. So be bold to offer frequent paraphrases, but do it in a humble manner.
Paraphrasing leads to clarification. You will find out if you misunderstood anything because the speaker will correct you. “No, I did not mean to say X, but rather Y.” Don’t let this bother you that you got it wrong. Speakers are glad to correct you. Better to find out now that you got it wrong than to go off and do the wrong thing.
In summary, increase the frequency of your paraphrasing and enjoy better conversations with more rapport and fewer misunderstandings.