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16 Apr 2012

Relationship Building Technique #7: Summarization

This entry is part 7 of 9 in the series Relationship Building Techniques

Summarization shows others that we heard and remembered what they said.

Summarization verifies what we heard, demonstrates listening, focuses the conversation, and outlines additional discussions.

We often don’t learn the value of listening techniques in building relationships. Consequently, people might not realize we are listening; this needs to occur in relationship building.

Summarization Defined

Summarization rephrases the information or key points of the person in a condensed version. The technique verifies what we heard, demonstrates listening, allows focusing of the conversation, and defines parameters for additional discussions.  It also allows the other person – once we summarize – to alter, modify or restate so we can correct misunderstandings early.

Typically, summarization will rephrase the point of a sentence, paragraph or entire discussion. The focus is on subject matter not feelings and emotions, such as:

  • Information
  • Ideas
  • Facts
  • Opinions
  • Logic
  • Instructions

Of all the relationship-building techniques, it will tend to be the most lengthy and involved; however, if too long, its effectiveness diminishes. Often it’s followed by a closed question such as, “Did I understand you correctly?”

Examples of Summarization

Some examples of summarization include:

  • “Just to make sure I heard you right, Jack, you’d like us to find a way to secure a steady supply of our old product from this vendor, to negotiate a price based upon our minimum usage, and to find someone else to produce our new product.”
  • “To make sure I’m on the same page, let me summarize what I heard. You want to send Sue and Tom out west and to promote Sally to run the plant. Also, you want to find a recruiter to help us to fill Sally’s job and to find us a good service person to manage our top customer.”
  • “It seems that what you’re saying is that you want us to start over.”

How Summarization Works

From a relational perspective, summarization conveys the feeling that you are:

  • Understanding and valuing what the person is saying
  • Paying attention to detail and quality
  • Someone in whom the person can have confidence

The effect of this is to create:

  • A common understanding of what was said
  • Opportunities for correcting any misunderstandings upfront
  • Confidence in your abilities in the eyes of the other person
  • Confirmation that you know what was said or needs to be done

Summarization, is really a result of the other relationship techniques. It’s used less frequently, but when it is it covers a lot of ground – often the entire conversation.  Summarization heads off many problems before they damage relationships. It has helped me much in my career.


Series Navigation<< Relationship Building Technique #6: SynchronizationReflection Tip to Build Strong Relationships in Conversations >>

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