I use this communication tip a lot myself, and am so glad I came to learn it in the last few years! I also share it often since it has helped me so much, and continue to hone it all the time. When you really need to get a point across and make sure it lands, give yourself a three-sentence cap. And here’s a formula to go with it that is often useful for things like proposals, pushback, risk acknowledgments, awkward situations, and summaries:
A really useful skill for communicating clearly is being able to separate facts from your interpretation of them. Lead with clear facts first that could be proven undeniably. Data, quotes, accurate descriptions.
Next–note here that we completely skip our own judgement and subjective assessment–talk about the impact. And tailor the focus of that impact to your audience. If they likely won’t care about it, consider their perspective and see if there’s something that will resonate with them more.
Lastly, wrap it up. Do you have a specific action you want them to take? Do you need them to confirm or clarify something? Do you want to take this opportunity to convey your commitment or forward focus?
Styling Your Three Sentences More
These three questions can also help with styling, especially when it is important:
- Will this stop the conversation or invite more discussion?
- Are you going to strain or build relationships?
- Is it focused on the past/present or bringing us forward together towards what we want?
While we’re talking about threes – am I the only one who feels compelled to make a sentence that justifies or explains something have three things in it? So many times I find myself writing this, that, and …. then I sit and struggle to come up with a third in order to have that glorious oxford comma, even if it is only in my mind before I say it. I recently noticed that and have let it go, and I find that a list of just two things is absolutely beautiful. So say it in three sentences with one or two parts in them. 😄
Ultimate Communication Tips
Here’s the most beautiful tips of all: no matter what you have written or said, or what you want to get out there – when you do it, know that if you do it with honesty and respect, you will be fine. And if you don’t, you’re completely normal and there’s no benefit to endlessly wordsmithing it before or after the fact. I promise – I’ve tried. When needed, pull out that emergency toolkit to work through how you’re feeling about it.
And the most recent addition to my guidelines: don’t aim for perfection. Not only should you allow for less-than-exemplary comms, but acknowledge that it can be an intentional strategy to keep things moving and get things done while not meaning that you are anything less than amazing.