Chris Lakin

Parroting: the only way to understand someone else with certainty.

This essay introduces a simple—though not necessarily easy—method to both avoid and defuse nearly all misunderstandings.

Someone has just explained an idea, feeling, or opinion of theirs to you. You think you understand. But, how would you know?

You don’t get to decide whether you understand someone else’s thoughts and feelings. — They do.

So, ask them. “Let me see if I’m getting this right, you think/feel X, because Y. Is that accurate?

Though this technique is more than merely mimicking their words, I call asking for confirmation like this ‘parroting’.

Assume nothing in your explanation. Ask questions about anything you do not understand 100% clearly. You can only be certain that you understand by asking them.

More than 90% of the time your first parroting will be not satisfy the other person because it was imprecise or incorrect. This is good!—you wouldn’t have known otherwise.

Repeat until they are satisfied.

Expect this to be fairly difficult.

You may like this essay on another way how not to be irritating to talk to.


2020 July 23 (posted) - 2020 November 14 (revised)