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The Three Rules of Three: Watch and Practice

In this video, actor Alan Alda shares his three “rules of three” for effective communication.
The Art and Science of Relating: Follow The Three Rules of Three, with Alan Alda, Actor & Author, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? So I really don’t like tips. If I’m pressed really hard, there are three tips that I do kind of follow. Probably it’s a good idea to follow these tips after you get used to being connected to somebody. But there are three things that I like to do. I call it The Three Rules of Three. So the first rule is I try only to say three important things when I talk to people. No more than three. If it’s one thing that’s maybe even better. But usually there’s a lot to say.
When I make notes on what I want to talk about, if I see I’m going on past three to four and five I start eliminating them or seeing if I can fold them into the other things. Because three things are really all I can remember. And I don’t work from notes when I talk to people and I advise other people not to. I never read it because reading just excommunicates you. It’s not communication, it’s excommunication, in my view. So I can’t remember more than three things and I don’t think they can remember more than three things, so what’s the point of telling them stuff they’re not going to remember? So I stick to three things. That’s rule number one.
The second rule is if I have a difficult thing to understand, something I think is not going to be that easy to get, I try to say it in three different ways. Because I think if you come in from three different angles you have a better chance of making a three-dimensional view of this difficult idea. So I try to say it three different ways. And the third tip. If I have a difficult thing that’s hard to get, I try to say it three times through the talk. So that the first time you hear it you start to get used to it, the second time it’s familiar, and the third time you say, “Oh yeah, yeah, right, ok.”
Now, I do follow those three tips, but I don’t think I’d tell somebody, “You’re going to get up to talk, here are three tips to remember.” It’s a process. You’ve got to get transformed into being a better communicator. You’ve got to go through steps. It’s like going to the gym, only it’s a lot more fun than going to the gym because it involves connecting with another person, and we’re built to connect with another person. In spite of the fact that we often avoid it, it actually is fun when we get into that position. So if we can get ourselves transformed into liking connecting with the audience we’re talking to or writing for, then these tips will happen automatically.
Or finally we’ll be able to put them to work in terms of that transformed way we have of connecting. It really feels good.

In this video, actor Alan Alda shares his three “rules of three” for effective communication.

Over to You

After you watch the video consider the following question and feel free to share your thoughts with your fellow learners in the comments below. Please be careful to not reveal any personally identifiable information about your place of work, or your colleagues.

Reflect on your own experience in the art of communication. What unspoken (or conscious) “rules” do you have for yourself that help keep you connected and actively connecting?

Optional additional task

If possible, you may wish to find a colleague willing to practice this task with you.

Each of you should think of the most complex topic you’re comfortable discussing. Take turns explaining your topic to the other person, leaving space for him or her to ask questions or interject. Try to follow Alda’s three rules of three.

  • Reflect on the above. Did the rules get in the way? Did they help? Was it a bit of both?

If you wish to, you could share with your fellow Learners how this went.

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Critical and Strategic Thinking in Practice

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