No matter how well you know a person you simply cannot read their mind.  When you attempt to do that you are actually making assumptions about that person which may or may not be true.  Clarifying assumptions is what the POWER tool box was created to do.  It is made up of five elements, each a power tool in its own right.  Individually they can help you deal with any circumstance AND as a set they provide sustainable energy for conversations, relationships and organizations.

POWER stands for Paraphrase, Open Questions, Wait, Empathize, Reframe.  Think of it as an address in your brain where you keep the concept of deep listening.  It is just a way to remember how these ideas all fit together to provide a fuel source for our journey through life. I imagine a strip mall in a neighbourhood with five stores and a big solar panel on the roof.

The Paraphrase store offers ways to prove that you were actually listening to the person.  In there you can learn to give evidence of your listening by repeating back what you have heard.  Sometimes you use their words.  Sometimes you can use other words or provide a summary of what was said.  The idea is to let them hear what you thought you heard so that they can correct any misinterpretations or provide missing pieces of information for clarity.

What you won’t find in the Paraphrase store is any editing or opinions or self-referencing stories.  You know the kind of stories that begin with “That happened to me and I said ……”  There is no judgement or sarcasm to be found.  It is pure evidence of what was said in a non-judgmental, objective way.  There is no advice. “I would do this.” Or no “SHOULDING” that might sound like “You should just leave.”  There is only honouring the speaker with the gift of their own words back to them in a way that demonstrates an understanding of what was said, evidence that the person was actually hearing what was being conveyed.

On its own Paraphrase is a powerful tool to have with you when you are in any conversation.  It can help you avoid all the ‘mises’ eg. Misunderstanding, misinterpretation, miscommunication, misconstruing and all the rest. A Paraphrase gives the person a chance to hear what they said.  It is like a verbal reflection, a look in a sound mirror that allows them to check if what they said was really what they intended to convey.  It is a gift of opportunity to clarify and relieve that someone has finally heard and understood them.  We all have a voice.  We all want to be heard so when someone actually hears you and proves it you will definitely feel better.

Next door to Paraphrase is a shop called Open Questions.  Here you will find many gadgets to aid you in your deep listening project. Who, What, Where, Why, When, How are the most popular.  Using these question words at the beginning of any inquiry allows the speaker to frame their answer from what THEY know and not from what YOU think you know.  Closed questions relate to YOUR thinking on the subject.  Open Questions give you a glimpse into THEIR thinking on the subject. “Did you walk to the gas station to get gas after you rain out on the highway?” is closed. “What happened next?” is open.  Your version of the story is evident in your question.  You have made assumptions when you ask a closed question.  If you want to test an assumption you have made why not use an open question and here the real story from them?

Using Open Questions takes practice.  It seems we are programmed to ask questions from our own perspective and they can be used effectively but an open question produces more power to fuel the conversation.  You get deeper and broader information that allows you to change your own perspective and version of things.  It is fascinating what you can learn with a simple “What happened next?” or “How did that make you feel?” or “What thoughts were running through your mind at that time?”  You can strategically place the focus on the speaker and let them tell you THEIR story to deepen your understanding of their situation and their way of being in the world.  You can identify where they are coming from, what set of beliefs, expectations, assumptions, concerns and hopes they hold.  Knowing more about the person makes the rest of the journey easier to map and understand.

Next door to Open Questions you will find a store called WAIT.

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