Becoming Emotionally Intelligent Using the 3-Question Rule

TSP • @myTSPnet


Comedian Craig Ferguson once said in an interview there are three things you must always ask yourself before saying anything:

  • Is it necessary to say?
  • Is it necessary for me to say?
  • Is it necessary for me to say it, now?

These three questions are an important tool to have in your toolbox to sharpen your emotional intelligence. Taking a few seconds to run through these questions will take practice before it is ingrained in your mind.

Consider the following examples:

  • You’re at the grocery store and someone accidentally cuts you off with their shopping cart. You are, of course, tempted to say something to them and tell them off. But, is it necessary? No, it's not.
  • You post your opinion about something on Twitter and someone you don’t know tries to instigate by responding with a snarky opposing viewpoint. Again, you’re tempted to tell them off or start a hot debate about the topic just to prove them wrong. Ask yourself, is it necessary?
  • You get home from a stressful week of work and want to tell your kid that something came up and you can’t take them to the waterpark this weekend, so you want to reschedule. However, you also notice your kid is also having a bad day and upset about something. So, you ask yourself:
    • Is it necessary to say? Yes!
    • Is it necessary for me to say? Absolutely.
    • Is it necessary for me to say it, now? No, you are better off waiting until you’re both in a better mood and can figure out a plan to make it up to them.

As can see, these three questions can save you from a lot of unnecessary trouble. It allows you to take a step back and think am I going to regret saying this? Can this situation be avoided? Most of the time, yes, it can be avoided — it’ll save you from saying things you wish you could take back.

These three questions also push you to speak up when it’s the right thing to do. There will be times when your mind runs through each question and your answer is yes to all three! Yes, it’s necessary for me to say something right now!

In cases when you answer yes to all three questions, it will encourage confidence and allow you to be assertive.

For example, a new client reschedules a meeting for the fifth time in a row. You thought about mentioning it the last time, but you gave them another chance. You can ask yourself:

  • Is it necessary to say? Yes!
  • Is it necessary for me to say? If you have been inconvenienced and feel as though your time is being wasted, yes.
  • Is it necessary for me to say it, now? Yes!

While you should address the situation, it’s still important to convey your thoughts in an emotionally intelligent manner. Rather than saying “you’re wasting my time,” try planning a time in the future when they’re not so busy.

Asserting this type of emotional intelligence will provide you with a solution in a professional way. It’ll also show the client that you’re trying to be helpful to them and not just shutting them down.

Making emotionally intelligent decisions and using the three-question rule is important in our personal lives, but it’s also critical in the workplace. Emotional intelligence sets the tone for situations, and as business leaders, it's important to set the proper tone for the organization. Sharing this technique with your employees and teaching emotional intelligence in the workplace will have tremendous benefits.

When teams collectively operate in a more emotionally intelligent manner, conflicts are avoided, and ideas are communicated in a more effective manner. By making thoughtful decisions in the workplace and how you collaborate with peers, you will strengthen the organization as a whole and ultimately build better leaders around you.