In almost any conflict - whether it's a community issue, workplace disagreement, family dispute or political gridlock - there are invariably two sides:
1.) Your side, which is the right side.
2.) The other group's side, which is the wrong side, or the side that's not as good as yours.
Unfortunately, as humans, we're programmed to only see resolutions to problems as being one side's ideas defeating the other.
In his latest book, business author Stephen Covey is trying to change the way we view conflict resolution and problem solving in a way that moves beyond even compromise. That's because compromise, as Covey suggests, may stop the conflict, but it doesn't create a breakthrough. With The 3rd Alternative, Covey offers a higher way of thinking in which the two sides mutually agree to discard their positions and work collectively to innovate a new solution.
As Covey discussed in the Huffington Post:
One person - you - can start the quest for a 3rd Alternative. Just go up to your "opponents" and say, "Are you willing to look for a solution that's better than what either of us have thought of?" Most people will say, "Such as?" And you say, "I don't know. That's the idea. Are you open to seeking a way out that's beyond your way and my way - a higher way?"
That's a magic question. When your opponents see you suspend your own position, at least temporarily, suddenly the strife drains out of the discussion. Creative minds take over from antagonistic minds.
Some may suggest this practice is too idealistic, and not even possible. Covey's new book shares myriad examples of how we can apply this in our families, workplace, politics and international disagreements. And it's not new; the concept has been in practice for centuries. Covey continues in the Huffington Post:
When I tell people that Switzerland had a civil war not long before the American Civil War, they can't believe it. "Switzerland?" they exclaim. "The most peaceful, most productive, most efficient, happiest, highest-per-capita-income country on the planet?"
It's true. In 1847 the Swiss were desperately divided between deeply conservative rural Catholics and liberal urban Protestants. They spoke different languages, lived on different sides of the Alps, and were so angry at each other they started shooting.
Fortunately, the Swiss came to their senses and asked themselves, "Can't we do better than this?" And they did. They arrived at a 3rd Alternative: a country where all their religions, languages, and cultures flourish, and where their diversity is the source of their strength.
They and so many others show us how to create new and better results instead of escalating conflict - and how to build strong relationships with diverse people based on an attitude of winning together.
Digging deeper into the concept of The 3rd Alternative, one realizes it can be applied to almost any conflict - from as simple as dividing up the household chores to as complex as seeking a way forward in our state's budget disputes.
How do you see the 3rd Alternative concept being applied to the simple or complicated disputes of our time? Take part in a discussion by adding your comments to our blog post about this topic. Remember, there is no right or wrong answer.