10 benefits of restating someone else’s argument or position in your own words

Last updated March 15, 2018

1. It shows that you are listening.

2. Translating it into your own words requires a basic understanding of what they said.

3. “If it can’t be translated, it probably doesn’t mean anything.”[a] Attempting to translate it into your own words can identify meaninglessness.

4. Hearing their own position translated helps them understand their own position. I don’t merely want you to understand my position. I also want you to understand your own position.

5. It slows things down. You haven’t shot back or merely reacted. This reduces tension. Makes for a sustainable conversational rhythm.

6. Your translation of their argument or position can strip it of needless rhetorical flourish.

7. Positions or arguments can sound ridiculous when they are clearly summarized. Simply restating someone’s position can remove the need to refute it.

8. It earns you credibility from which to state your own position.

9. It can help you identify common ground upon which to build.

10. You might make a friend.

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” (Proverbs 18:2)

[a] Something I once heard Bill McKeever essentially say.


11. It dignifies and honors their words as meaningful.

12. It dignifies the very act of communication, of dialectic and dialog.

13. It combats cynicism that all such communication can be reduced to sophistry, stimulus, or grandstanding.

14. It honors another as a thinking soul — a royal, rational, reflective, introspective human being made in the image of God. Not just one of Pavlov’s dogs.

15. We would want others to do the same to us. This fulfills neighbor-love. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)

16. It provides an opportunity to overlook or redirect poor communication. This graciously seasons conversation with salt.

17. It may provide another with a better way to restate their own position elsewhere. In this case it is the gift of even clearer articulation. More grace.