Career SkillsLessons on Leadership

Harnessing the Power of Someone Else’s Words

By Jacquelyn Adams and Becky Pocratsky

This week’s article is a guest post from Becky Pocratsky. While she has previously written several articles for this column, including on the topics of how to be optimistic in a cynical society and why joy helps us be more effective, today she’s delving into how we can cultivate deeper connections through better listening.

Is it just me, or does it seem like society is full of people who love to talk and hear themselves talk? Of course, as an opinionated person, I am sure I have been guilty of this behavior more than once… okay, probably many times.

However, in this article, we will turn this norm on its head as we consider the value of other people’s words. We, of course, will not take this to an extreme and become mute bystanders. On the contrary, we will be listening intentionally, with the express goal being purposeful engagement. Specifically, when we listen to and repeat the words of others, we unlock opportunities to cultivate a connection that deepens the bond in our relationships. This pattern of repetition is divided into two categories, immediate and delayed, and together we will explore the application and benefits of each.

Immediate Repetition: Spark Connection

Immediate repetition is straightforward and simple to apply. While it is referred to as the echo effect, it is not just parroting the other person’s sentences back to them verbatim. That would fall under the *very awkward* category and result in people slowly inching away from us…. the opposite of creating a stronger connection.

A more socially acceptable option involves listening to the word choice and phrases being used by our speaker and using them as well. By focusing on these keywords, we can create a shared experience and establish a level footing in the conversation. It demonstrates a desire to understand what the other person is saying, and a vital aspect of this is clarifying questions. Few things can disrupt the echo effect quite as quickly or effectively as using unknown jargon — or even the correct words but applying different meanings. The resulting understanding gap between the parties makes it difficult to establish relationships. However, clarifying questions can help to break down those barriers. By defining jargon and sharing definitions, that level footing can be re-established. The result is a social environment that allows us to build rapport and affiliation with others. It simply requires that we pay attention to the keywords of the conversation.

Delayed Repetition: Demonstrate Respect

Delayed repetition is far more meaningful, but not nearly as easy to execute. It requires listening to another person and then repeating what they had previously said at another time in a related conversation. (Important side note: of course, we are giving them credit. Idea theft is far from respectful.) If you think about it, logistically, many complications make this challenging to plan. How many conversations do you need to have with a person before saying a quotable thing? Will you ever have a conversation that provides an opportunity to share any of the quotes you have memorized thus far? Finally, if you misquote them, those good intentions might result in an awful moment.


So, simply put, this is not something that can be orchestrated. It can only be organic and authentic. And this is precisely what makes it so meaningful. It is an intuitive sign of respect. It cannot be missed or misconstrued. The very action demonstrates, “Your words have value, and I have carried them inside myself since you spoke them. They are worth repeating to those present.”

To openly quote someone else demonstrates that you hold their thoughts in high esteem. In my opinion, it is one of the highest forms of praise that you can give another person. This is why, if life presents you with the opportunity and you genuinely believe that others will benefit from this quotable wisdom, you should seize the chance. Even if you aren’t the type to speak up, try to find the courage to speak anyway. In my experience, it pays dividends in a relationship and creates moments that are received and remembered with gratitude.

In the end, I think the most important part of repetition is the transition that can be made within ourselves. Namely, that it increases the value of the other person’s words. So often, we get caught up in trying to explain ourselves or help someone understand our ideas. Too often, we think that our own words are essential, and it is just a matter of making the other person listen. That mindset is impossible to maintain when actively practicing repetition. Instead, it opens the door for real, mutually beneficial communication. And personally, whether we agree or disagree, those are the conversations that I want.

Jacquelyn Adams is a storyteller and an award-winning CEO. She lives in a world of constant exploration, whether it’s summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, vlogging about the future of work… or discovering how she’d do in a chocolate eating contest (answer: last place). Find more of her Lessons on Leadership articles here or connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Becky Pocratsky is a freelance editor and writer. She works from home with her two sweet (loud, energetic, help me!) daughters. Also she is a super geek who went to Hobbiton on her honeymoon.


Jacquelyn Adams

Jacquelyn Adams, founder and CEO of Ristole, uses her column to delve into the wild world of leadership. Whether the article is about her days as a Peace Corp volunteer, exploring corporate training, or even grabbing lunch at Chipotle — she will come out with a story and her “top tips.” As she passionately believes in leveraging her platform to share others’ voices, her column welcomes guest bloggers to create a fuller and more diverse pool of experiences for her readership. So, welcome to “Lessons on Leadership” where you never know what the next article will hold: online networking advice, guidelines for creating a joyful workplace, or even puppies. Just keep reading to discover what’s next!

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