The Three Question Rule 

What are three things emotionally intelligent people ask themselves before saying anything? 

  1. Does this need to be said?
  2. Does this need to be said by me?
  3. Does this need to be said by me, now?

I don’t know about you, but this resonates with me. There have been plenty of times I have blurted something out without much advance thought or consideration. Inevitably, many of those conversations didn’t go well or the other person took offense. A brief pause may have saved me the regret and helped me realize it didn’t need to be said, didn’t need to be said by me, or maybe it DID need to be said by me, but not in that moment. 

Consider these examples:

Your subordinate is upset about missing a deadline. They are clearly aware that they blew it and there will be consequences. Do you need to tell them you sent them an email reminder about the deadline last week? Um, probably not. Or how about when your colleague is clearly rushing to make copies for an important meeting cuts in front of you at the copying machine. Do you need to say anything about it? Nope! You can let it go. 

A co-worker and your boss are having a political debate. You are well versed about some of the issues they are discussing and know that what your boss is saying is incorrect. They turn and try to drag you into it. You are tempted to set your boss straight with your superior knowledge and sharp tongue. You pause and wonder what the impact might be of them hearing this from you. It could definitely create problems. Stay out of it. Move on. 

An employee in another unit just shared a complaint they received about you from your office mate. The relationship is important to you, and you decide to directly discuss it with your office mate to clear the air and address their concerns. However, when you return to the shared space, they have their “do not disturb” sign up, which is what you all agreed to use when you are in focus mode. It’s a mutually agreed upon boundary. Do you need to say something? Yes. Do you need to say it right now? No. Better to wait until you both have time to sit and talk. 

With some practice this internal dialogue can be done quickly and will become automatic, saving you from saying things you wish you could take back. 

By: Elizabeth Hill, Associate Director, University of Colorado Boulder Ombuds Office and co-editor of Ombuzz

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top