The (Potential) Power of Paraphrasing

In our first Ask Me Anything podcast episode I addressed the question, “How do you think about paraphrasing?” The context of this question was that in many coaching programs paraphrasing is pushed as the most important coaching tool but it isn’t something I put a primary emphasis on.

While I don’t believe paraphrasing is the most important tool, I do think it can be a powerful one if done skillfully. Here’s my advice if you want to leverage this potentially powerful coaching tool:

  • Beware being a parrot. Powerful paraphrasing moves beyond repeating back what the person said.
  • Listen for what isn’t being said. Powerful paraphrasing occurs not when you echo back not the word, but instead the deep sentiments your client is expressing.
  • Build the skill. Powerful paraphrasing requires skillful listening, thinking and responding – the three moves in the Transformational Coaching dance. You must practice. A lot. We are not socialized to be deep listeners. Dedicate time and resources here if you are committed to using this tool for transformation.
  • Intentionally choose to paraphrase. I’m aware of some coaching methods that tell you to paraphrase everything a client says. Please don’t. Your decision to use paraphrasing should be in response to what you are sensing your client needs in the moment. When you use paraphrasing ask yourself, “what is the impact this move is having for my client?” Use that knowledge to determine your next move.

I know models can be helpful, so if you want to hear me using powerful paraphrasing in a coaching conversation listen to Episode 36 of the Bright Morning Podcast, paying careful attention at the 1:14:23 mark. In addition to hearing how I paraphrased, you’ll also hear how the client, Kathrina, responded to this coaching move.

P.S. Before jumping to paraphrasing make sure that your foundation of listening, thinking, responding is solid and ready to build upon. If you haven’t already, the best step to doing so is attending The Art of Coaching 101.