By Allison Xu
Effective communication requires a clear understanding of the content and implications. But, in our daily interaction, we may not always understand what the other person means. To avoid confusion or misunderstanding, we should know how to ask clarifying questions.
Clarifying questions are questions we ask to confirm that our understanding of someone’s meaning or perspective is correct. They are useful for all kinds of contexts, such as when we try to fully understand a teacher’s requirements for a project or when we want to ensure a team member’s input is appropriately processed.
Here are several clarifying questions we can ask based on the actual situation:
1. When you said …, can you tell me more specifics?
When you request more details, especially specific details, you will have a better idea of a general or vague statement.
2. Can you give me an example of …?
Asking for examples allows us to get more concrete ideas on what a problem is or how things work.
3. [Summarize the other person’s statement using your own words first] Did I paraphrase what you said correctly?
Paraphrasing is a great way to confirm whether our understanding is correct or not. It will also make us focus on the main points of the other person’s statement.
4. If I understand you correctly, what you are saying is….
This is another way to let the other person hear the message you receive and get a chance to make sure the understanding is correct.
5. I am not familiar with the term “…,” could you explain what it means (in simple words)?
Sometimes, an unfamiliar term or concept may be a barrier to clear understanding, so asking others to explain it would help clarify the whole idea.
6. I missed the part about… Could you repeat [the information you just missed]?
It is possible that we miss a certain part of the information in a statement. Simply politely ask the other person to repeat that part.
Clarifying questions are often a necessary part of a conversation. They are not meant to create embarrassment or confrontation, but to ensure better understanding and collaboration. So feel free to use them!