The Power of Three Related to Negotiations, Leadership and Motivation

A hand holding up three fingers

We have been taught from an early age to think in threes. ABC, 123, three little pigs, three blind mice, three musketeers, gold-silver-bronze etc.  When we go to the store if we have only have three items to pick up, we likely don’t need to write them down or bring a list, but with four or more we probably should. Regarding the rule of three this article wants to present three applications of the rule of three associated with negotiations, leadership and motivation.


How to get what you want


Last week I had the opportunity to hear John Baker, author of The Asking Formula: Asking for What You Want and Getting it. He is the former CEO of Shearson American Express. In a nutshell he indicated these are the three things you need to do to get what you want.

  1. Know what you want
  2. Ask directly for it
  3. State the three best reasons why

Looking at number 3 above consider what are your three best reasons and plan accordingly.  For example, being on a nominating committee for the church council, here is an example of three reasons why I was asking a member of the congregation to be on the church council for a three-year term.

  1. You are a caring, competent, concerned faithful member of this congregation who would be an ideal candidate for the church council given your background.
  2. As a member of the church council you have an opportunity to bring your leadership skills and enhance your skills over this three your term making a real difference in the life of this congregation.
  3. You would also gain real insight into how and why this congregation runs so smoothly and what we bring to each other, the community and the world with our faithful stewardship.

Now take this example with a not for profit perspective and apply it to what you want in another setting. Why should someone hire you or your firm or buy what you are selling. This is the end game, but what does it take to get to the point where you can do this? Perhaps instead of simply asking for what you want, it might be much better if you developed a relationship, really listened to the other person and educated them a bit on your product or service. Don’t you think?  I would offer, consider applying The Collaboration Effect ®, before simply asking away.


Applying The Collaboration Effect®


Yes, it is important to know what you want, ask for it have three reasons ready to encourage buy in, but before initiating that action, it really helps to enhance connecting relationships and to listen actively.  These are the first two elements of The Collaboration Effect®.  The Collaboration Effect® is all about connecting relationship, listening actively, and educating judiciously to lead to building bridges to negotiate closure with the model above.  In this article the focus will be on connecting relationships and listening actively.

Connecting relationships

Connecting relationships in a negotiation starts as soon as the participants can be identified.  Using social media, firm connections, your network connections and other sources learn all you can about the other party.  Armed with this information write out key elements so that you can ask the party questions about what is important to them.  For example, military service, college, social activity or employer experiences, family relationships, travel, pets, etc. Knowing these elements and bringing them at opportune times such as breaks, over lunch etc. can be invaluable. Understanding the other party’s emotional attachment to interests is key.

Listening actively

Listening actively means paraphrasing, summarizing and empathizing with the other party.  Ask open ended questions. The most important is to just close your mouth. It sounds simple enough, but we all have so much to say. We want to share with others and we want to show how much we know.  We want to help. We put a lot of time and effort into what we know. That is not the point. The point is to listen to the other party if you indeed want to motivate, lead and/or negotiate closure. If the other party has questions of you, answer them, but then reframe the conversation and turn it back to them. Let them do 90% of the talking.  Along these lines we can learn from other cultures.

For example the U.S. military and our civilian government representatives in Afghanistan and Pakistan learned they had to adapt to the local culture.  In Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is rude to introduce business until you have visited the other party three times and had tea.  Hence the book Three Cups of Tea .  This text educates westerners to slow down, build connecting relationships, listen actively, educate judiciously before attempting a negotiation.   It required visiting with the locals three times before bringing up business. Again, we come back to the rule of three. 

As a take away the three keys to The Collaboration Effect® are:

  1. Connecting relationships
  2. Listening actively, and
  3. Educating judiciously

In order to build a bridge leading to negotiating closure.  To help you further here is a tool for everyday life to further enhance listening, demonstrate leadership and motivate others


Practice an everyday tool on motivating others


Here is an everyday tool that you literally you can use every day. Your children, co-workers and subordinates are watching. If you already are a great listener, that’s wonderful. If you want to be even better, or you need to enhance your skills here are three very good tips to make someone else feel much better about themselves by saying very little. Again, this third tip also has only three parts. 

Demonstrate a desire to learn about someone. Ensure that your actions demonstrate this beyond your words. You have to really care to genuinely want to know more about the other person. You have to be authentic. Make the effort. It will be noticed.

As indicated above and reiterated here, use reframing to gain insights.  You want to keep the conversation focused on them. You want to stay positive. You want them to reflect on what concerns them and yet help them sort out a different perspective to help them see the problem in a new light.

Reinforce the positives you see in them. See the example above with the opening as to why the party contacted may be a great addition to the church council. Reinforce with them what you see as their positive qualities that will help build them up. In doing so you will help them see how truly great they really are.

So the three keys to making someone feel extraordinary by saying very little are:

  1. Demonstrate a desire to learn about someone with your actions
  2. Use reversals and reframing to keep the conversation on them and gather information
  3. Use the knowledge gained to point out the greatness they did not know they had.




To have better negotiations, leadership and motivation with others three models are presented for your consideration. Each one has only three elements. That is pretty simple. Consider applying one or all three of these models with others at work, at home and in life.  The more you practice these, the better you will become as a negotiator, leader and motivator with others.


About the author


Mike is a mediator/negotiator/facilitator and professional speaker that addresses business valuation issues with the IRS and other issues for clients as a conflict resolution expert. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 11 books including, The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]