Published on

Repetition—Not Redundancy—Can Be Good for You

  • Name
    Josh Weidmann
Communication is the crux of all relationships. We live with people whom we love and some we merely stand. No matter the nature of the relationship, we want to make sure we are communicating for the sake of being understood. I was recently counseling a couple through conflict in their marriage. As I watched them, I noticed they continued to say the same things more than once. The person speaking was frustrated to continually have to say things over and over. Truth be told, I am sure the other person hated hearing it more than once. I took some time to evaluate what was going on—why were they continually repeating themselves? I watched them communicate, and it became clear that there were several things going on. It was not as easy as identifying one reason for their repetition. Each time they repeated something, it seemed like there was different nuance or emphasis. When you think about it, there are three main reasons that we repeat ourselves:
  1. We repeat ourselves to be understood. We say things over and over to make sure the person we are talking with hears us out. All people long to be understood. If we feel like the other person doesn’t get the core of what we are trying to say, we will say it over and again. It isn’t until the person we are communicating to repeats what we’ve said in their words that we can rest assured that we’ve been heard.
  2. We repeat ourselves because we want to be clear. I started thinking about all the time in the Bible where God repeated Himself. Why did he do that? Because he thought we weren’t listening? Perhaps. Because he forgot he already said it? Not likely. Rather, the main reason that God repeats Himself in His Word, or when speaking audibly to people in the Old Testament, is for the sake of clarity. Repetition can guarantee clarity or emphasis of specific instruction or feeling.
  3. We repeat ourselves because we forgot. Humans forget things; this is a part of life. I worked for a man once who, I swear, forgot everything he told me once we left the conversation. The next meeting was going to be at least 50 percent a repeat of the prior meeting, simply because he forgot what he had said. We repeat ourselves because we are forgetful.
So, while repetition has its place, here are some things we do to eliminate redundancy in our conversations:
  • Ask the person to clarify what they heard you say. If they say it back in their words, we can trust they have heard us.
  • When we are listing to someone else, we too can repeat back to them what we heard them say. “So I understand that you _____.” This not only brings clarity, but also communicates the value of the person speaking.
  • If clarity is important, repetition still has its place, but we should try to repeat ourselves in new ways, such as writing it, emailing it, texting it, etc. Sometimes the best thing we can do is put a thought in black and white text.
  • If we are exceptionally forgetful (or even busy), we may just need to take better notes. By capturing what was already said, we can eliminate repeating ourselves again later. If you work with someone that is forgetful, write down what they said to you and give it to them before your next meeting.
Repetition is a powerful tool, but when misused it can be frustrating to everyone.