October 22, 2014

Progress-focused summarizing

Progress-focused professionals often summarize what their conversation partners have said. The summary is spoken in what is sometimes called a tentative tone. This means that the tone is not firm and assertive but it is as if there is a little question mark at the end of each sentence. This makes it easier for the conversation partner to feel free to make any corrections, if needed, to the summary.

In those summaries, the key words which the conversation partner has used are repeated. These keywords are the words that are the most important words in what the conversation partner has said. They are preferably positively phrased. Negative, highly emotionally charged terms will generally not be repeated so that they won't get an extra emphasis. They may however be mentioned in the summary in a reframed version. This may mean that instead of the negative term a positive reversed version of the word will be used in the summary. For example, when the conversation partner has said: "My shitty manager obstructs my development!", a progress-focused professional might say: "I understand you would like your manager to support your development more?"

Summarizing in this way has several functions some of which may be a bit surprising. Here they are:
  1. Through the use of conversation partners' key words you can let them know that you have listened attentively,  that you respect their perspective and take it seriously, and that you invite them to continue talking. 
  2. Through your summary you are letting them hear their own words once more so that they can reflect on them some more and come to some new ideas. 
  3. The summary helps you to check what you have understood well and what not. It helps your conversation partners to elaborate on certain things.  
  4. Through the tentative tone the summary will work as an invitation to correct what was not right and to continue talking. 
  5. Summarizing in this way will require that you will pay full attention to whatever your conversation partners are saying. A useful side effect of this is that you will be much less inclined to give tips or to have strong opinions about what the other person has said. The task of listening is mentally so demanding that you may not have the mental capacity left to think about tips and opinions. 

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