The power of three

Emphasizing three points makes your communication more believable, memorable and persuasive.

Emphasizing three points makes your communication more believable, memorable and persuasive.

We've always known that three is a magical number, particularly as a construct to help persuade people. Now we have scientific "proof" to confirm The Power of Three.

A study published in The Social Science Research Network, "When Three Charms, But Four Alarms: Identifying the Optimal Number of Claims in Persuasion Settings," confirms the well-accepted truism that when you add a fourth point, it weakens the credibility of the first three.

This tells us we should emphasize three accolades or positive points. If we use four, our "BS-O-METER" starts to go off, which is absolutely no surprise. It confirms what we've all known all along: three is a magic number.

For example, if you're making a persuasive presentation, provide exactly three reasons why. "I think we should go to the ABC restaurant to celebrate our kid's soccer season and thank the coaches, because it's close, inexpensive and fun."

If you added another positive attribute, such as the new "healthy meal options," the persuasive power of the first three reasons diminishes.

Use three as a default construct

When communicating, use three as your base construct. When asked an impromptu question, and you need a simple framework for your answer, try a "past / present / future" answer - the power of three. "Thanks for asking, in the past, we used to 1, 2, and 3. Today, we also 4, 5, and 6 and as we look to the future, we're already working on 7, 8 and 9."

These structures using our GAPP (Generally Accepted Presentation Principles™) constructs work in virtually all situations.

Good. Better. Best.

More than 100 years ago Sears created the modern array of "good / better / best" for all product offerings: three price points for each level of product. This concept has permeated all levels of business and commerce. It's usually Gold / Silver / Bronze.

If there's a "platinum" level, it's out of the norm, and always makes us question the value of the first three levels.

This is a time-tested construct. Product positioning and nomenclatures include classics such as, "snap, crackle and pop," and a zillion derivations. My mom always said, "When you get to three things, that's a list...and now it's time to write it down."

Three lives in pop culture. There were three stooges and three basic levels of air travel – economy, business and first class. Christianity refers often to "the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirt." A favorite, cornerstone Judaic quote is from Rabbi Shmon be Gamliel, "The world is sustained by three things: By justice, by truth and by peace."

The sages settled on three – for a very good reason: three works. Always has, works today, and always will.

It's simply how we're wired. Embrace the power of three.

Onward. Onward. Onward.