The Parroting Technique

Does your team hear what you’re saying?

Great managers communicate all the time. Often, this communication happens through casual conversations, so it’s important to gauge how a verbal directive is received in the moment.

The parroting technique is a simple tactic to do just that. After you deliver a message, ask whoever you are talking with to play it back for you. Much like the telephone game, this will help you understand if the message you sent was the message received.

Illustration of a manager practicing the parroting technique. The manager asks an employee to "Say it again," which the employee repeats.

Here’s an example:

You: Okay, let’s recap our plan. We’re in need of marketing collateral to help with an upcoming sale. You’ll talk with the marketing team about the status of the material and when we can expect it, and help them prioritize the most important pieces if they can’t make our deadline. Once you have this information, you’ll brief the rest of our team. Does that make sense

Report: Yea, sounds good.

You: Great. Can you say that back to me? What are the next steps?

Report: I’m going to talk to marketing about the collateral and when we can expect it, then I’m going to send an update to the team.

You: That’s mostly it, but I’m sorry I didn’t communicate everything clearly. If they can’t meet our deadline for all the materials, I need you to work with them to prioritize the most important pieces. That way we can adjust our plans based on what we’ll have when.

Report: Oh, okay, got it.

You: Alright. Play it back to me one more time.

Rinse and repeat as needed.

In addition to ensuring the message sent is the message received, the parroting technique helps in a few additional ways.

First, it clarifies where you need to provide additional information. You’re often coming from a place of complete context, while others might be hearing something for the first time.

Second, it provides insight into how your reports prefer to receive and absorb information. Some of your team might just need the high-level context to know what to do next. But others might prefer (or need) to really dive into the details and write things down.

And finally, the parroting technique gives you instantaneous feedback on how you’re communicating and shows your reports that you’re committed to always improving.

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Originally published at Manager Companion.