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Let me repeat that back to you

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This was originally posted on The Pastry Box for 1 August 2015.

I was trying to explain to my dev lead what problem I was having that day. I wasn't sure how much background to give. I wasn't sure how well I had explained my frustration. He asked me to listen to him explain back to me what I had said, and I realized I had explained it well enough that he understood. He could help unblock me on the problem.

"Let me repeat that back to you."

We were in a heated argument. He was frustrated because he believed I wasn't listening to him. I was frustrated because he kept saying the same thing over and over again. So, in the span of one breath, I asked him to listen to me as I described what I thought we were arguing about, and why we were arguing. He realized I was listening. He felt I understood. We resolved our argument quickly after that.

"Let me repeat that back to you."

Out on the ultimate field, a teammate kept running the play incorrectly. The sideline wanted to pull her from the game, even though she was one of our strongest players, mistakes and all. When asked during a timeout what she thought the play was, we all realized the second interpretation of how the play was run. From her understanding, she was doing it correctly and thought the play was a crappy play. Only when she repeated the play back to us did we realize the error and correct.

"Let me repeat that back to you."

Why do we generally suck at something as crucial as being able to communicate with another person? I don't know. What I do know is that listening, and then repeating back what I heard, in my own words, does wonders for letting the other know my level of understanding, for letting the other person know they have been heard, and for helping the two of us move towards a better understanding.

Try it.

"Let me repeat that back to you."