No one ever embarks on a conversation thinking, "I'm going to talk too much, interrupt a lot, and generally come off as a self-centered bore." We all aim to charm. But too often, we fall flat despite our best efforts. Why is that?

According to many experts, the answer is that we misunderstand what charm is. We think that charisma is all about saying the right thing, when in fact charm is about listening. The most charismatic people in the world know that being liked is all about listening, about making the other person feel seen and heard.

When we go astray in conversations, it's often because we rush in with our own thoughts and stories. We're trying to be witty and entertaining but end up coming across as self-obsessed. We talk when we should listen, opine when we should question.

But according to management coach Karl Albrecht, there's an easy way to avoid this common conversation pitfall. He calls it the "Rule of Three."

How to re-balance your conversations.

As Albrecht points out in a recent Psychology Today piece, all conversations are composed of three parts --declaratives, questions, and qualifiers.

Declaratives are facts (or opinions disguised as facts) boldly stated. "The earth revolves around the sun," for instance, or more commonly something like, "Donald Trump can't be trusted with the nuclear codes!" Questions are, well, questions. And qualifies are softeners like, "I can't speak for everyone," "It seems to me...," or "As far as I know...."

Albrecht's Rule of Three is simple. In conversation, never say three declaratives in a row without throwing in a question or qualifier.

"When you're in a conversation of any kind--casual or business--monitor the proportion of declaratives, questions, and conditionals you use," he suggests. "After a few declaratives, try turning the conversation around and asking a question, so the other person can begin to own it. When you answer, try substituting a conditional or qualified response for the strong opinion you might otherwise put out."

It's a dead simple suggestion, but one Albrecht insists can make you instantly more likable and your conversations much more engaging and productive. Why not give it a try and let us know how it goes in the comments?

Published on: Aug 24, 2016