My manager, a co-worker from another department and I worked for months on a significant research project and proposal to request more funding from our organization. We finally had the opportunity to present our plan and formal request to the executive council.

During the presentation, the council members asked us specific questions, and requested several detailed follow-ups from our team.

A few days after the meeting, our team regrouped to compare notes and determine the next steps. I was amazed to discover that we all had different recollections of the Council’s requests. The three of us were in the same meeting but we heard and processed the information using our own personal filters.

Sometimes, listening isn’t enough.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share these insights from freelance writer and digital strategist Molly Page on what it takes, beyond listening, to capture the right information.

As Page points out, our previous experiences color everything we see and hear, whether we realize it or not. We all have biases, preconceived notions and prejudices. We perceive the world through a very particular, very personal filter—especially in a highly-charged or emotional conversation.

To make sure that you understand what you are hearing in conversations, take time to ask questions. This is an effective way to clarify and ensure that everyone is on the same page. While this step seems obvious, in times of stress or anxiety, it’s easy to forget it. Also, we sometimes assume that we captured the information, so stopping to clarify and compare notes with others can seem redundant.

Page says a great way to clarify that you are hearing what the speaker is saying is to rephrase their statement, “What I hear you saying is [fill in the blank].” This gives the speaker a chance to clear up any confusion and help you accurately hear what they are saying. Another great follow-up question is to say, “Based on our conversation, my understanding for next steps are …”

By asking the right follow-up questions, you can ensure that everyone is on the same page, and save time and avoid disconnects when it’s time to move forward with next steps and action plans. This process also helps to adjust expectations or outcomes of the conversation.

Taking the extra time to get clarification means that even if you don’t agree with what the other person is saying, at least you can be sure you heard them accurately.

Source: Molly Page is a freelance writer and digital strategist. After falling madly in love with her adopted hometown, Chicago, she wrote a book about it, 100 Things to Do in Chicago Before You Die.