Sometimes, the messages that a speaker is attempting to send can be highly complex, involving many different people, issues, places and/or times.
When you are the listener in a sensitive environment, the right sort of non-directive questioning can enable the speaker to describe their viewpoint more fully.
Asking the right question at the right time can be crucial and comes with practice.
The best questions are open-ended as they give the speaker choice in how to respond, whereas closed questions allow only very limited responses.
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.
As an extension of reflecting, clarifying reassures the speaker that the listener is attempting to understand the messages they are expressing.
Clarifying can involve asking questions or occasionally summarising what the speaker has said.
A listener can ask for clarification when they cannot make sense of the speaker's responses.