To be better, think “3”

People think in 2s not 3s…

This can be trivial – ‘shall we go to the cinema or a restaurant? Eat Italian or French? Pasta or pizza?’

Or more important: ‘someone’s being aggressive in a meeting. I have only two choices – back down or fight. I’ve lost if I do either’

Instead, think in 3s. So, if someone is being aggressive to you in a meeting, you could:

  • Back down
  • Fight
  • Suggest you take the discussion offline
  • Ask others in the meeting to share their views
  • Suggest you take a break in the meeting, so you can discuss with this person separately
  • Ask them to repeat what they just said, ‘so I can make a note of it’ (people often don’t want to blurt things out twice)
  • Ask the Chair to intervene
  • Say “You raised a great question. I don’t want to bore you while I think aloud. I will come back to you immediately after the meeting ends”
  • And so on

See how empowering this is? When you think you have two choices, and neither appeals, you feel like a rabbit in headlights.

But once you realise you have lots of options, it’s entirely different. After all, surely at least one of the big list of options will work.

So, next time you’re looking for your best option: assume there are at least three, and find them. In my experience, the third is often better than the first or second, because it required more thought. Fourth and fifth are often better still.

My customers tell me that their first option is rarely the best. It was just the first, is all.

But how many of us stop thinking too early, before we’ve arrived at the best option?

Have a good week,

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