The More You Talk, the Less They Listen

To stand out, say less.


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What is the best way to communicate an idea in today's noisy climate? We had heard about Ryan Foland's "3-1-3® Method" and interviewed him about this thoughtful, simple and effective communications tool. We recently caught up with Ryan at his office at UC Irvine. He is not only the founder of the 3-1-3 Method, but also a top communications specialist at UCI, three-time TEDx Talk speaker and the cofounder of Influence Tree which helps people grow their influence.

Ryan describes himself as a proud ginger whose past was "sparkled" with that being the one thing that people held against him. He was classically bullied as a kid because he was the only one with red hair and freckles. That soon got him interested in non-verbal communication. Specifically, he turned to the martial arts and learned how to use his body, his eyes, his eyebrows, his shoulders and his posture to communicate confidence -- even when what he was feeling inside was the exact opposite.

It was the first time he used the innate force we all have to communicate strength and confidence in a way that is sometimes more powerful than words. He went from being bullied to becoming a proud ginger and took on many leadership roles thereafter.

Because he was raised by two parents who worked in an academic environment, he was given great freedom -- as long as he did well in school. That enabled him to experiment. He admits that he failed much more than he succeeded, but because of his upbringing, he positioned those failures in a way he could learn from them. That academic process enabled him to learn more than his years.

Related: 5 Keys to Great Nonverbal Communication

That's why he's so passionate today about giving back. Ryan has devoted himself to giving people the ability to better communicate and better share their ideas. Most importantly, he helps people learn how to articulate, position, and grow what is referred to as a personal brand.

Ryan says, "Think of personal branding as modern day professional development. Companies are now realizing that true influence comes from having relatable people. Once you turn your employees into individuals who know how to share what they do and why they are passionate about what they do, they are able to communicate the company's brand mission and value through their daily interactions with other people."

Speaking is his favorite medium for sharing his knowledge. "It is my sharpest tool," he says. Ryan enjoys traveling around the world and "helping to break down what is one of the most complex communications challenges -- how you answer the question, "What do you do?'"

Essentially, he's identified and designed the "3-1-3 Method" to help people step through the process that makes that answer the most effective one possible.

We asked Ryan how he discovered the 3-1-3 Method. He said he's worked with thousands of entrepreneurs. At the beginning of every conversation he would ask them, "What do you do?" Their answers were very similar, "They would go on and on with five or 10 explanations all over the place in no particular order. Then I was actually more confused," Ryan recalls.

Related: 6 Ways to Show People You're Really Listening

Then he started to play with different questions. "I'd say "Tell me what your idea is in the fewest amount of words possible.'" But that didn't seem to affect the length of their answers either.

Undaunted, he then broke it down into, "What are the most core principles of your idea, i.e., the problem you are solving, the solution you are offering, and the market you are addressing?"

Then he went further and challenged these entrepreneurs to answer these three questions in one sentence each. So basically three sentences: one about the problem, one about the solution and one about the market. "This put them in a box," he says, "It encourages people to make difficult decisions about what stays and what goes." The benefit is that they become very clear and concise about their core message.

Then Ryan really puts them to the challenge, "Now reduce those three sentences into one sentence!" According to Ryan, "That one sentence helps to address the reality that, nobody really cares about what you do, they care about the problem you solve."

"Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs put the importance on what they do," Ryan added. "If you flip that order, and instead of saying what you do, say, "It's not what I do, it's the problem I solve.' That creates intrigue and interest for people who want to know more about the problem. This helps to create curiosity and they will inquire more. When they ask you how you solve that problem, you're no longer pitching, now you're in a conversation."

Related: As Your Company Scales, You'll Need to Listen More Than Speak

Ryan encourages entrepreneurs to then get it down to three words that describe what you do. "Because," he says, "the more you talk, the less people listen, and the less you talk, the more people ask questions. Believe it or not, if you want to stand out, you should say less. Intrigue leads to curiosity. Curiosity leads to conversation. And conversation leads to connection!"

To find out more about Ryan Foland, the 3-1-3 Method, or see his TEDx Talks, visit

Michael Houlihan & Bonnie Harvey


Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, founders of Barefoot Wine, co-authors the NYT’s bestseller, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, and The Entrepreneurial Culture, 23 Ways to Engage & Empower Your People. Both recommended by CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and widely used in school of entrepreneurship. Contact: for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting.

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