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The 3rd Alternative

“The 3rd Alternative” is a management technique used for resolving conflicting situations. This is derived from understanding to use the age old American proverb, “There are three sides to every story — your side, my side, and the right side!”

Exactly who said the above is not very clear in the texts of history. History shows that way back from 1802, John Adams, the 2nd President of the United States of America popularized the use of this adage. The concept however, is sound even to today’s individual and organizational conflict situations and scenarios.

The most common reason why conflicts occur anywhere is ‘individual differences’. This could mean a difference of opinion between two people on how to perform a certain task, or a difference in the understanding or desire of goals to achieve, or in differences due to different cultural habits, or a difference in common interests, etc.

‘The 3rd Alternative’ is a powerful technique to use when there are individual differences that lead to a conflict. The process is as follows:

1. Find an individual, a 3rd person other than the 2 individuals involved in the conflict. Ensure that this person has the capacity and the intent to remain neutral and unbiased towards both the parties involved. This person serves as a mediator.
2. The 1st party submits their case to the mediator, from his/her perspective, with facts and emotions, with no interruptions, except from the mediator in case of an clarifications
3. The 2nd party submits their case to the mediator, from his/her perspective, with facts and emotions, with no interruptions, except from the mediator in case of an clarifications
4. The mediator steps away from the 2 parties and ponders over the situation at hand considering both the facts and feelings from both perspectives.
5. The mediator then comes up with a neutral and unbiased solution which would be as fair as it can be, and presents the solution to the 2 parties
6. The thoughts of the 2 parties on the proposed solution are listened to by the mediator
7. The mediator rethinks on his/her solution, alters it if need be, and presents it back to the 2 parties.

Though, this technique can also be done with one of the two individuals involved in the conflict taking on the role of the 3rd party, it is however not suggested so because it could later lead to assumptions of bias on part of the individual.

One of the examples of the ‘The 3rd Alternative’ can be found in the story of 2 brothers in a village who were left with a large plot of land and no will after their father’s untimely demise. They are at a loss as to how to divide the land equally between them such that it would not result in any unpleasant situations either then or later. So, under the assumption that he would be the best person to approach the situation from a neutral unbiased perspective, they go to the village head and ask for his help. “We love each other a lot”, they said to the village head, “and do not wish to fight now nor ever. We are confused how to resolve this situation without creating any unpleasantness. Please help us!” The village head comes up with a solution which, on first instance seems utterly ridiculous to the brothers. He says, “Toss a coin. Decide who says ‘heads’ and who ‘tails’. The winner of the coin toss would get the opportunity to divide the land into 2 parts, in whichever way he wishes to do so.” The brothers were aghast! How could the village head say this, they wondered? Wouldn’t it be awfully unfair to the other brother, they questioned? The village head smiled and then gave the remaining part of his solution. “The brother who wins the toss would get the opportunity to divide the land into 2 parts in whichever way he wishes to do so, but, the other brother would have the privilege of choosing which of the 2 parts he wishes to own!” The brothers walked away, happy, and marvelling the wisdom of the village head to look for the 3rd alternative!

Attempt to perceive the 3rd alternative! Resolve your conflicts…
You have the power!

Published in ‘The Hans India’ on 8th Sept 2011


September 20, 2011 Posted by | The Hans India Newspaper | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Concept of Forgiveness

Let me ask you this question – Should we easily forgive those who have caused us grief and anguish??????

Would you have been honestly able to say yes???

There is a well known story about how a kindergarten teacher helped the children learn the importance of letting go of hatred and to forgive. She gave each child the number of potatoes as the number of children they hate, and asked them to walk around with these in their bag for a week. By the end of the week, the potatoes rot and the children with more number of them start complaining. The teacher then explains that this is what happens when we carry negative feelings or hatred against others and that it will only harm us so we might as well let it go by forgiving.

A very profound concept to which one response from anyone could be that his/her experiences have shown that hating the other person helps him/her to raise and succeed more in life and so s/he would not believe in just forgiving. Seems logical enough and there may be many others who may feel so too… so, does this story reveals a practicable moral? Here are a few thoughts that I penned down as I mulled over this…

This discussion reminds me of the popular statement that most behavioural trainers rely on, “different things work with different people. Pick what works for you and use that.” Not always true. There are always principles and laws in this world that when practiced the way they are professed, will definitely help an individual succeed. Problem is, we do not always follow them as professed, but do so as we like… coz of which the outcome is not the same as it is supposed to be.

The same is true in the case of forgiving also. We so easily say “forgive and move on – that is the way to success” that we do not ask the one important question – “how? How does forgiving and letting go of hatred help clear up the path to success? How should I work on forgiving such that it will clear that path?” Even in today’s age of techniques and concepts such as NLP’s modelling and Meta Mind Management, we do not ask the vital “”why?”

Many people also say – “I am not like the Mahatma. I will not show my other cheek if one is slapped. In today’s world I will do what it takes for me to go forward and those who purposefully come in my way with negative intentions towards me are wrong and I do not need to forgive them.”

Very true, you do not need to… In the article, potatoes are taken as an analogy for hatred. Let us think about this for a minute: it is true that potatoes over a period of time do get rotten! However, it is but human to usually carry these potatoes (feelings) with us for some time. What is important is what do we do with these potatoes for the time that we carry them (while they are not yet affecting us)? Do we achieve what we have to and then get rid of them before they become a problem for us? Or do we just let them be and let them rot and keep holding onto them until they become unbearable (in life this can be stress and frustration caused by our feelings).

Meta Mind Management in forgiveness happens when we accept the negative feelings that arise in us (instead of trying to be saintly – of course, assuming we encounter these once in a while as humans), and know what to do with them such that they help us towards our goals, and then discard them aside before they start to harm us…

Also see

Revathi Turaga
International Meta Mind Management and Certified Edward de Bono trainer

December 9, 2008 Posted by | RevathiOnline Learning | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments