Have you ever spoken with someone who rambles through their thoughts or meanders from one subject to another without ever making a point? This may be frustrating in a personal situation but it’s infuriating as the listener in a professional setting. To avoid similar gaffes and instead, communicate with greater clarity, conciseness and confidence—learn and apply The Rule of Threes. Let’s do a quick activity! Watch and listen to this short video.
Why is this rule important? Because you’ll never be caught off guard—or choke—again. The next time your boss, or someone else, asks you how that project is coming that s/he assigned to you, avoid the common and gut-wrenching answer of, “Fine.” So many people respond in a similar manner and it can not only shatter your boss’ perception of your competence, but it can also strip you of endless future opportunities.
Instead, when you are put on the spot and asked to share a summary or provide an update on a project/process/problem, apply The Rule of Threes using a time-related focus. For example, state your response in a way that answers these three questions:
- What [tasks] have I recently completed? (past)
- What [tasks] am I currently working on? (present)
- What [tasks] do I plan to do in the near future? (future)
Your response may sound something like this: “This project has been interesting and very fun for me! Last week I finished [X], which I’m very proud of. This week I am focused on [Y], which will put us in a better position with our competition. And next week, my plan is to [Z].”
This strategy is persuasive, as your listener is more likely to trust your reasoning with a three-part structure. It’s rhythmical—meaning it creates momentum, moving your listener from point A to B to C. Lastly, this strategy is memorable because it is far easier to remember three things over other numbers like four, five or ten. If you’re skeptical, look at these common examples:
And rather than someone asking you for a project update, sometimes we need to sell or position an idea or product in the best way possible. Obviously, you will want to focus on how your listener will benefit. It is also helpful, though, to place your three reasons/benefits in a specific order. The goal is to start strong, but end with your strongest point of all:
Each time we face the fear of speaking, we gain strength, courage and confidence. With repeated practice it can be executed concisely and brilliantly. So take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the (1) style, (2) sharpness and (3) clarity to influence others and achieve positive outcomes. (And be sure to include The Rule of Threes!)