Three Types of Paraphrases

Whether you are working on the identity of a mediator in Cognitive CoachingSM or that of a collaborator and inquirer for Adaptive Schools, paraphrasing is a critical skill to master. As you recall, Thinking Collaborative teaches three levels of paraphrasing – acknowledging, organizing, and abstracting.

We acknowledge non-verbally with head nods, eye contact, etc., when listening. The acknowledging paraphrase is verbal feedback given to let the person know you are trying to understand. It includes acknowledging feelings and touches on the affective domain of the speaker. In Bloom’s terms, it operates at the level of comprehension reflecting understanding, not just a rote recitation back. Using different words to capture essence is critical as the new word triggers the attention of the speaker and causes them to consider the meaning and accuracy of the paraphrase. Hence, connection that was not there before is created. Rapport is built.

The organizing paraphrase moves from basic rapport to the cognitive domain. As the parts of what was spoken are analyzed by the listener, they are organized for the speaker and mediation of thinking occurs. There is often categorization of ideas, e.g., “There are three issues here,” hence the metaphor of containers. Often the speaker will have a cognitive shift just from hearing his/her thoughts put into some order that hadn’t existed prior to the paraphrase.

Drawing on the work of Hayakawa’s Ladder of Inference, the abstracting paraphrase infers meaning below the surface of what is said. A variety of inferences include listening for values, beliefs, intentions, concepts, identity, and assumptions. This is the most sophisticated paraphrase as it likely causes a group or speaker to think in new ways, previously inaccessible to them. For the next weeks, we will explore the abstracting paraphrase and offer tips for practice.

For this week, listen to your conversations and notice your own paraphrasing patterns.