Michael Scott from The Office says,

Ever have those conversations where you feel like you're both on the same page — but then it turns out you're reading totally different books?

It can lead to a lot of confusion, but there are several effective ways to clear things up and get back on the same track.

1. Active listening

A woman says,

There are different kinds of listening.

Hearing the words someone is speaking is the most basic form of listening — but it might not be the most effective way if you're trying to reach a mutual understanding with someone. This form of listening is called passive listening.

So the question is, what is active listening then? Active listening is more than simply hearing someone speaking. It's making an effort to understand them.

Active listening

Oprah nodding thoughtfully

  • Using non-verbal cues: eye contact, nodding

  • Back and forth communication

  • Asking questions for clarity

  • Paraphrasing or restating the speaker's statements

Passive listening

Jesse Eisenberg says,

  • One-way communication

  • No responses, questions, or comments

  • Preoccupied with other activities during conversation

Passive listening won't lead to good communication. Active engagement and participation in the conversation is essential. Remember, communcation is a two-way street!

Quiz Time!

Flaticon Icon

Jason is having a conversation with his friend Liam about Liam's plans for vacation next summer. Liam is excited and shares a lot of info at once, but Jason is having trouble keeping track. What should Jason do to make sure they understand one another?

A. Politely ask Liam to repeat himself.

B. Repeat or summarize what Liam said and ask if that's correct.

C. Don't interrupt Liam and let him continue speaking.

D. Be polite by quietly nodding and smiling, even if he's not sure what Liam means.


Select all answers that will help Jason keep track of Liams words:

2. Check for understanding

3 pugs tilting heads. Question marks float around their heads. The text reads,

While people should always make sure they understand who they're speaking to, it's not always a guarantee. This is why checking for understanding yourself is important.


  1. "I hope I'm being clear enough!" This is a straightforward way to see whether you're making your point clearly.

  2. "What questions do you still have?" Some people might need the invitation to receive clarity.

  3. "Was that helpful?" If you're providing someone with assistance, this can help you gauge whether or not you need to make yourself more clear.

3. Body language is key

Ursala singing. Overlaid text reads,

Verbally checking for understanding can be effective, but there are other helpful ways to see whether someone is on the same page as you. In the attempt to be polite or avoid becoming bothersome, some people may not be truthful about their understanding.

Facial expressions

Main raises and pinches eyebrows in confusion.

Raised or pinched eyebrows may show that someone isn't fully processing what you're saying.

Body positioning

Man waving hand in front of distracted man on his phone.

Are they maintaining eye contact, or are they often looking elsewhere?


Man speaking. Overlaid text reads,

Silencecould mean they're still processing the information, but it could also mean lack of understanding.

Everyone is different!

While these signs help see whether someone understands what you're saying, they're not foolproof. Even with positive signs such as eye contact and nodding, misunderstandings can still lurk about.

Just in case, it might be beneficial to check for understanding occasionally, regardless of their body language — especially when you're speaking about complicated topics.

Take Action

Two women talking while sitting across from each other at a table. Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Taking the time to make sure that you and your conversation partner have reached a mutual understanding can create efficiency, prevent avoidable frustration down the line, and allows you to foster stronger and more meaningful connections with people you interact with.

Now go on and converse with purpose and understanding!


Your feedback matters to us.

This Byte helped me better understand the topic.

Get support to take action on this Byte