According to Harvard Business Review, asking for clarification “can help uncover the real intent behind what is said.” Oftentimes in conversations, individuals don’t ask follow-up questions because they tend to fill in the missing parts with their assumptions. In order to truly understand the whole idea, it’s vital to ask for clarification.

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Reflect on how to ask clarifying questions

Learning how to ask clarifying questions is fundamental in developing and honing your communication skills. Start by simply taking a moment to reflect.

Does asking for clarification break the flow of active listening?

Exercises to ask clarifying questions

Now, it's time to put your reflection into action. Finding opportunities to implement your communication skills can allow you to ask clarifying questions.

  • Let your team know when you're genuinely confused. Wait until the speaker is finished explaining the concept and ask, “I’m a bit confused. Could you repeat...”
  • Avoid injecting your subjective views when asking for clarification. Instead of saying, “This is what we did at my last job.” Ask questions to get a better understanding like, “Can you walk me through how this works?”  
  • Ask for examples or comparisons from the speaker when you don’t quite understand a concept. Consider: “Can you further explain this concept by using an analogy?”

Additional resources to ask clarifying questions

The One Conversational Tool That Will Make You Better At Absolutely Everything
Great insight moves your career, organization, or business forward. The problem? Most people are terrible at asking questions. Learn from the pros how to do it right.
Here Are 5 Questions To Ask At Your Next Meeting
It takes confidence and courage to ask questions during a meeting. Here are 5 questions that will lead to better outcomes at your next meeting.
Ask Three Questions to Clarify Expectations
Leave it to a comedian to invert perceptions of the leader-follower dynamic. Jon Stewart recently asked chief White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee “Is [the President] going to impeach us?” After all, Stewart mused, might the unpopularity of the President’s health care reform be due to people…

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