Tracy told me about her method of getting her husband to remember to pick up milk and bread. Now this might seem like a small thing, but when something as small as this can lead to an argument and create a heated reaction like “You don’t listen to me” or “I’m going without breakfast and it’s your fault”. This can have a big impact on this relationship.
Please note that it’s not that Tracy’s husband didn’t care, it’s just that a lot goes on in any given day and we have much to remember.
Tracy learnt about repetition and its effect on communication at our Free NLP training day and this changed her whole approach to the problem. First thing in the morning she would say “Can you please pick up some milk on the way home tonight”. Around 11:15am she’d make a quick phone call saying “….just thinking about you. Oh yes, by the way are you still picking up some milk?” Then she sent a text in the afternoon saying “Don’t forget to pick up the milk.” This pretty much guaranteed that milk would be picked up at the end of the day because 3 times seems to be the magic number. The power of 3 is well documented, but in this case the magic works to embed or learn an idea or instruction for an action to be performed.
It’s not important to me until it becomes urgent
Have you ever noticed that quite often when you ask someone or one of your team to do something for you they swear that you never said anything? So let’s take a look at this issue and see what’s going on. Quite simply, the point is that we are all busy people and if the issue is not important to you in that moment, your brain being so efficient will delete the message. To understand this further, let’s explore a memory equation.
The ultimate communication equation
Dr Alan Baddeley, who once worked at Cambridge University and now works at York University, published a great book on memory called ‘Your Memory – A User’s Guide’. The book contains an important learning equation which I also use for communication:
Salience x Repetition = Learning (message received)
What does salience mean? It means how important is it to you?
It comes from the Latin salire, meaning “to leap.” Something with salience leaps out at you because it is unique or special in some way.
For example my son loves Manchester United football team and it is therefore highly salient to him. He only has to hear once or twice which team members are playing at on for any given match and he’s got it. He can talk to me for hours about the various permutations of match play that could take place and my eyes would just glaze over.
What does repetition mean? In this situation it means how many times do you need to do or perform something before you can learn and recall it?
Now, football is one thing but multiplication and the times tables is quite a different matter for my son. He has no interest in maths and consequently there needs to be much repetition to gain meaning and learning.
Repetition, repetition, repetition
In the great scheme of things milk only becomes salient when you need to add it to your tea or breakfast, so consequently repetition is needed. On the other hand, making an appointment for the dentist when you have a painful toothache will be salient.
Just like Tracy, we can use repetition when we need to get a particular message across. This can be applied to any situation when you need to convey a message for someone to act on or remember. This can relate to your partner, your children, your boss, team members, when we advertise or when we speak in public etc.
Here are the 3 fundamental steps:
- Decide on the most important part of the message you want someone to act upon or remember.
- Think of all the ways you repeat the message, i.e. have them repeat it, phone, email, text or hire an airplane with a flying banner.
- Repeat it, repeat it and repeat it. 3 times seems to be the magic number.
You may worry about people thinking that you are nagging them. This is the risk you run and you may need to balance this against the importance of your goal for communication. I personally think this is a small risk worth taking as it can yield the most amazing results.
As Winston H. Churchill once said “Never, never, never give in” ……..hey that’s 3 times, magic!
If you ever attend a public speaking course anywhere in the world, the main piece of advice will irrefutably be in 3 parts:
Tell them what you are going to tell them
Tell them what you’ve just told them
Tracy’s husband, a nice guy, attended one our live training sessions and approached me afterwards saying “This explains a lot. I hadn’t noticed Tracy repeating what she wants me to do until you taught this topic in class. I just thought I was getting better at remembering to pick up the milk.”
You now understand that repetition is the key to learning. When you take our NLP Practitioner training programme you can repeat the training as many times as your wish at no additional cost. Yes, you can repeat it as many times as you wish. One more thing to keep in mind, we run NLP Practitioner training where you can repeat the training at no extra cost.