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Daily Nuggets: A For Impact Blog

Confidently Answer Any Curveball Question with the Rule of 3


Here is a framing device to help you answer any question in a calm and confident manner. It’s called The Rule of 3.

The Rule of 3 is simply the framing of THREE things to simplify a concept.

Yesterday a coaching client described a ‘tough question’ received from a board member about an upcoming project. In response to a plan about expanding into three new cities the board member asked, “How EXACTLY how the funds will be used in each of those three cities?”

The organization has a complete business plan that details every penny for each city. However, it would’ve been too vague to say, “Yes, we a complete business plan… it’s here in 40 pages.” So the ED froze.

Now that the ED has The Rule of 3 in her bag of tricks! She can simplify 40 pages on-the-fly by limiting herself to three bullet points. With the Rule of 3 the ED tried her first impromtu response, “Yes Nick… all the funds will be used to do these three things. 1) Purchase the curriculum 2) Provide Training and 3) Deliver ongoing assistance to partner organizations).”

Simply by summarizing the 40 pages in three bullet points the ED delivered confidence and clarity in her response.

The Rule of 3 is a magic framing device. Studies have shown that we as humans are wired to receive and remember three’s. Four bullet points seems like ‘too much’ and two seems like ‘not enough’.

Action: I want you to think about a tough question you’ve received in the past few weeks. Force yourself to go back and answer the question by saying:

  • “Yes, it comes down to three key objectives….”
  • “There are three goals we’re looking to achieve…”
  • “There are three parts to the answer…”

You will sound confident in your answer. You will be more confident in your answer. The person asking the question will be impressed by your answer — often saying, “Wow, you really have this down!”

Also, observe the Rule of 3 in action with any great speaker, marketer or politician. Now that you’re looking for it… it will appear EVERYWHERE!

Tom first shared the Rule of 3 with me about ten years ago. It’s since proven time and time again to be the most powerful framing device there is because 1) It’s simple 2) Easy to use and 3) Humans are hard wired to positively receive groups-of -threes.