How to Talk Clearly and Convincingly with your Team Members
In the current world, we live in, there is simply too much information coming from all sources: news, social media (how many social media accounts do you have?), friends, colleagues, family, not to mention our extended circle via groups and pages we follow.
There is a limit to how much information your brain can process at a time. Without your explicit approval, your brain is filtering what to pay attention to, and what to ignore. The same thing is happening to your team members.
Have you ever talked to your team members and just seen a blank look on their faces? Do they need to improve their listening skills? Is something else at play?
Your words have been filtered out by their brain.
How can you get their attention back? Aside from embarrassing both of you and asking, “Are you listening?” or “Can you recap our conversation so far?”, there are other ways to get through their brain filter.
One of the most effective ways is to use “The Rule of Three”. I’m sure you have heard of this rule before. We have been exposed to this pattern of speaking and writing since we were children from reading fairy tales and using formulas taught in school subjects. It’s also a method to improve listening skills.
Why the Rule of Three? Research on human psychology(1) has shown that our brains are best at remembering 3 or 4 chunks of information at a time.
Here, I will share with you three ways of using the Rule of Three:
This is the most commonly used Rule of Three. You would have heard phrases like:
“First… Second… Third…”
“Primarily… Secondarily… Lastly…”
“Number 1…Number 2… Number 3…”
By arranging your points into a simple sequence, you will sound clearer to your team members and they will be much more likely to listen and remember what you say.
So, if it’s just sequencing your sentence, you can have 5 points and just say “1,2,3,4,5’’, right?
Even though you may have 5 points to say, sequencing your points into three will force you to choose the best points, thus making you clearer to your team members. Remember, our brains can only process so much information. So prioritise quality over quantity.
If you listen closely to great speeches by leaders of various fields, often you will hear ‘Time’ being used as a way to get through your brain filter. Our brains are also hardwired to remember stories, so oftentimes you will hear a story in the speech:
“Beginning, Middle, End”
Other times, you can hear it stated plainly:
“Two years ago… Now… In the next 2 years…” (past, present future)
“When the project started…Currently…When the project ends”
We know a leader who, during his department’s Town Hall, accepts open questions from the floor and anonymous questions placed in a Q&A box. He would use the ‘Rule of Three’ as part of his toolkit to frame his answers clearly and convincingly when thinking on his feet.
This is an example of one of the questions he received:
“Can you explain why Project X is so delayed?”
He framed his answers with:
“Where are we now… Where we want to be… What we have to do to get there…”
“Overthinking in your brain is anathema to the process of thinking on your feet.”
~ Conan O’Brien
Think of a recent question your team member asked that you struggled to answer.
Perhaps you were mumbling. Perhaps you were digressing. Perhaps you were just stumped. How would you have answered the question using ‘Time’ in a Rule of Three?
And finally, we move to ‘Traits’.
Traits is not a word most of us use every day. A trait is a facet or attribute of something. A basic example would be, a chair has legs.
We know one CEO who communicates regularly in her Town Hall about 3 things:
This CEO has used traits of her business (volume of sales, company vision, and core values) to communicate what is important to the organisation in every Town Hall.
You can use traits to communicate with your team members about what is important. For example, “The three things that are important in our team are mutual understanding, respect, and ownership”.
So easy on the ears. So much more likely for them to remember these points!
As we reach the end, have you noticed I only shared three ways of using The Rule of Three?
There are 7 other ways you can use the “Rule of Three” when thinking on your feet, but if I tell everything to you here and now, your brain will start filtering it out. If you want to know more, you know where to find us.
With a suite of tools under your belt and a lot of practice, you’ll be talking clearly and memorably in no time. Your team members will thank you for it!
Clara Moskowitz, April 2008, “Mind’s Limit Found: 4 Things at Once”, Livescience.com