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I want to tell you about an incredibly useful communication framework, one I’ve used with nearly every client I’ve ever had. It’s called Unarguable and Unmistakable, and it’s nothing more than a simple script for being authentic, direct and effective when communicating with others. Yes, there are a lot of similar frameworks out there, but I like Unarguable and Unmistakable because it’s just so easy! It’s as simple as making an unarguable statement followed by an unmistakable request.
So, what does “unarguable” mean? Firstly, “arguable” statements are any statements we can argue. It sounds simple, but this includes things that we often think are unarguable, like facts, data and history. Saying, “The sky is blue” might sound like a fact, but it’s entirely arguable. I could tell you that the sky is dark where I am, or that I’m colorblind or that, “It’s not blue, it’s aquamarine!” Unarguable statements, on the other hand, are things that are 100% in our domain and control.
There are only three things that are unarguable: our own sensations, our own emotions and our own thoughts. “I have a pain in my shoulder” is unarguable — it’s my shoulder. “I feel sad” is unarguable — it’s my emotion. And “I believe the sky is blue” is actually unarguable, too, because I’m framing it as my thought or belief, which is 100% my own. Statements that are unarguable are powerful not because they’re difficult to argue with, but because they’re radically authentic and show others exactly where we’re coming from.
When we make unarguable statements, we’re not hiding behind the facts and data or asking questions to indirectly communicate intent. Instead of saying “This plan isn’t right” or asking “Why did you come up with that plan?” we can unarguably express “I feel worried about this plan.” It sounds simple (because it is), but the difference is huge. Imagine being on the receiving end of those different statements, and notice how you feel and how you would react differently.
Related: Authentic Leadership: What Is It and Why is it Important?
The second step, especially if you’re in a position of leadership or making an appeal to someone, is to follow up your unarguable statement with an unmistakable request. What makes a request unmistakable? It has to be three things: simple, genuine and yes or no. Simple means that there isn’t more than one question inside the question. Genuine means that it’s not a statement masquerading as a question, such as “Why did you come up with this plan?” really meaning, “This plan sounds dumb, defend yourself!” And yes or no just means that it’s a clear opt-in or -out request. Unmistakable requests could be: “Can I share my perspective?” or “Are you available for some feedback?”
The beauty of requests made in this way isn’t just in their simplicity, but also in the fact that people have a chance to say no, in which case, there’s clarity. Or they can say yes, in which case, they’ve opted into being a part of the discussion. They’re now with you and listening in a way that wasn’t available to them when the discussion was one-sided.
Marrying the above examples of unarguable statements with unmistakable requests could look like, “I feel worried about this plan; would you please walk me through your thinking?” Notice how different that feels. Now the person on the other end knows precisely where you’re coming from and can opt into being a part of the discussion going forward. It’s not malicious or indirect, and to me, it feels much more collaborative and authentic.
If this all makes sense to you, try to become an anthropologist in the specialty of unarguable statements. Notice and note down when others use statements that are arguable or unarguable, getting curious about how each affects a conversation. Notice and note down when you use those statements, too. Then, take that into daily practice to both use the unarguable statements and couple them with clear, direct unmistakable requests.
Related: Effective Communication Means Business Success