Add Three Things to Increase Understanding and Choices

Sometimes we’re so deeply conditioned to see the world from our own point of view that we aren’t even aware that we may be missing a bigger picture.  It’s easy to make an assumption, jump to a conclusion, or determine a solution to a problem in a matter of seconds by drawing solely on our experiences and beliefs.  This is normal, we all do it, and sometimes it has no measurable effect. There are of course plenty of times when holding onto or acting out of these first instincts without challenging them can lead to blame, conflict, and missed opportunities.

Going out and getting feedback or input from others that can help you see your blindspots is a great exercise.  If you don’t have access to anyone, how can you coach yourself to see beyond what’s right in front of you?  

When you’re in situations where you’re zeroed in tightly on one path, feeling stuck, or being triggered into a single train of thought, one practice that gets you to investigate your own unconscious narratives, broaden your scope, and create more choices is to simply Add Three Things.  Following are a few ideas for what those “things” could be.

Add Three Voices – Ask others to share their perspectives so you can act out of greater understanding

Add Three Possibilities – Generate other ways of responding or other plans of action so you can act intentionally and in alignment with your purpose and values

Add Three Assumptions – Create stories about someone or the reason for their behavior that have heart so you can act with compassion (if you can’t talk to them directly to confirm or challenge the assumption you’ve made)

Add Three Points of View – Imagine scenarios from different angles or altitudes to surface your blindspots; e.g., what do I think this could look like through the eyes of my team, my bosses, the business?

Add Three Outcomes – Think about how your current situation could turn out if you go with it, then brainstorm different outcomes that cover the range from worst- to best-case scenario (helps you avoid a “whoa, didn’t see that coming!” moment and invite a “dream come true” moment).  

Photographs of Young Joni Restaurant in Minneapolis, MN. All images by Eliesa Johnson and The Restaurant Project.

Check out this scenario to see how it works:

You have to go talk to an angry guest.  From what you’ve heard about their experience, it sounds to me like they’re acting entitled and came in looking to pick a fight.  The server said they’ll probably just need some food comped, you agree and your plan is to briefly acknowledge what’s been reported to you and tell them what you’re taking off their bill.  You’re pretty sure that you, the guest, and your server are going to come out of this feeling less than satisfied, but this is usually the best way to handle situations like this.

There are several opportunities in there to add three things that could check your assumptions, get you past the obvious play, and generate multiple creative ways to respond that you can choose from intentionally (even if you end up going with your first instinct!).  

“They’re acting entitled and came in looking for a fight…” 

Add three other assumptions about their behavior and intentions that invite your compassion and mitigate your frustration

“The server said…”

Add three other voices to the story by talking to other team members who interacted with the guest.  Add their perspectives to have a better understanding of the guest’s entire experience

“Your plan is to…” 

Add three other possibilities for moving forward in this situation (remember to think big here, no need to limit your creativity)

“You’re all going to come out of this feeling…” 

Add three other outcomes for everyone involved 

“Usually the best way to handle this…”

Add three other points of view by imagining the effect your approach would have on the guest, on the server, and on the business

Don’t get tangled up trying to add three things to every part of every situation you’re in.  Do try it in different ways and you’ll start to understand where adding three things can enhance your self-awareness, improve your decision-making, and increase well-being for everyone.  

Where could this practice be useful in your life?


Sometimes all you really want is something that puts a smile on your face.  Find links here to curiosities that may or may not be related to today’s article.

Video – 3 minute duration

3 is a Magic Number – Schoolhouse Rock


One thought on “Add Three Things to Increase Understanding and Choices

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s