Taking the Third Side
Taking a Third Side approach is one that can be hugely beneficial for people involved in a Traveller project but who are interested in deescalating conflict. As the name suggests, taking the third side means not looking at conflict from one side or the other, but from the larger perspective of the surrounding community- not a bystander, but someone who observes both parties in the conflict with a bigger picture. A metaphor for describing the third side approach is taking a “balcony” view of conflict, whereas participants directly involved in conflict can only see their own perspective (“the dancefloor”).
However, it is possible with training that people who are caught up in conflict can even take a third side approach to conflict they are directly involved in- and can try and see conflict from a perspective other than their own.
The materials for this section are directly from the Third Side website (www.thirdside.org) which stems from the work of William Ury in the Global Navigation Project in Harvard. This page introduces the concept of a Third Side Approach, and
What does a Third Side approach try to do?
- It seeks to understand both sides of the conflict
- It encourages a process of cooperative negotiation
- It tries to support a wise solution – one that fairly meets the essential needs of both sides and the community
You can have natural sympathies for one side or the other and still choose to take the Third Side.
Third Side approaches mean that there are a number of roles we can take, depending on the approach. No matter what Third Side role you favor or take within a conflict there are 3S skills that are useful to any thirdsider. There are three key sets of skills: Seeing from the Thirdside, Listening from the Third Side and Speaking from the Third Side.
3S Skills – See from the Thirdside
To gain perspective and see from the Third Side you need to Go to the Balcony. The Balcony is a mental place of calm and perspective where you can keep your eyes on what is truly important. Imagine that the conflict is happening on a stage and you are on the balcony overlooking the stage. Going to the balcony means taking a distanced view of close things. What do you see from up there? How does that alter your perspective?
Going to the Balcony allows you to speak and listen with a measure of detachment. It permits you to be open to new ideas and possibilities. Improving your ability to go to the balcony can have a positive impact on conflicts around you. Sometimes the simple act of witnessing a conflict, paying respectful attention to the parties and what they are saying, can shift the outcome.
There are three simple steps for Going to the Balcony : Stop – Look – Listen.
- Take time to prepare
- Take a time out
- Count to 10
- Take a deep breath
- Remember “Everything starts by stopping”
- Look inside yourself – look at your natural reaction to take sides, ignore and escape.
- Name your emotions. Have your emotions (rather than be them)
- Hear your feelings out so you don’t have to act them out
- Listen to understand
- Use a friend or colleague as your ‘balcony’.
3S Skills – Listen from the Thirdside
As a Thirdsider to consider the whole situation and to listen from the Thirdside. The key is your ability to Step to Both Sides. In order to consider the whole you need to understand each side within itself. We often predispose ourselves to seeing the world one way. Listening allows us on opportunity to see from multiple vantage points and allows us to see the whole. Listening is a simple way to show respect. Watch your intention in your listening. If your intention to listen is to find a way to convince them of “your way” , to prove them “wrong” or “convert the right side,” you will not create an opportunity for a solution that supports each side and the surrounding community. Remember to go to the Balcony if you find yourself defending a perspective or listening simply to rebut.
In order to Step to Both Sides you need to: Put Yourself in the Other s Shoes, Listen and Acknowledge, Ask Problem-Solving Questions, and Listen for Action.
Put yourself in the Other’s shoes
- Understand how each side sees the situation
- Understand how each side feels
- What you see depends on where you sit (which is linked with home people frame (link framing conflict) the world
Listen and Acknowledge
- Listen more than you talk
- Listen from the inside
- Acknowledge the point and the person
Ask Problem Solving Questions
- Ask open ended questions
- Ask questions to which they do not know the answers
- Ask questions many ways
- Tap the power of silence
Listen for Action
- What is waiting to happen?
- What is needed here?
- What is mine to do here?
- What are the opportunities for Third Side action?
3S Skills – Speak from the Thirdside
Now that you have seen and listened from the Third Side, it is time to speak from the Third Side. The Third Side is always present as a silent partner; in speaking from the Third Side we give it voice and draw attention to it. Speaking as a thirdsider can take many forms, all of which are necessary at different stages of a conflict.
A powerful form of speaking can be simply asking good questions of the parties involved. This alone serves to affirm the interests of the whole. Asking questions also creates an opportunity for the parties to reflect on their situation and choices which alone can sometimes transform the conflict. At times asking questions isn’t enough to spark this process and, as thirdsiders, we can speak up to get people’s attention.
Three practical ways to speak from the Third Side are: Interrupt Constructively, Affirm Interests of the Whole, & Support a Triple Win.
- “Hey!” Interrupt action-reaction pattern
- Deliver a positive No
- Set a few simple groundrules for the conversation
- Refrain from personal attacks
Affirm Interests of the Whole
- Don’t Reject Their Interests, Affirm the Whole
- Shift from Either-Or to Both-And
- Deliver a Positive No
Support a Triple Win
Triple win: an inclusive outcome that fairly meets the essential needs of both sides and the surrounding community. A way that works for everyone.