1 + 1 = 3
Posted by Claude Warner on Wednesday 20th October 2010 at 14:49:28
We each have our own perspectives, but it is these differences that often lead to conflict.
Think of the cost of conflict. Things take longer to get done, we lose our focus, our productivity reduces, relationships get harmed, and many other forms of personal and organisational collateral damage.
Sure, one of us can compromise and allow the other person to have their way. This often happens in business where the person in the position of power enforces their ideas on others, but this is a win-lose. Ultimately even the “winner” loses because they don’t have the support of the other party. This equates to 1 + 1 = 1.5.
Surely there has to be a better way, one where each party wins. There is, and it’s called the Third Alternative.
The Third Alternative isn’t my way or your way, it’s Our way. It’s better than a compromise, and if approached correctly, can be a better alternative than what either of us have proposed.
And it’s easy, and yet not, because it requires us to be open, to suspend our own perspective (and our judgement of the other), to really listen, and to sit with the uncertainty and anxiety of where it’s going to end up.
But, if we trust the process, if we believe that the outcome will be better than what it is now, then we can have a win-win.
So what is the process?
The first step is to change your approach to listening. Even if we listen attentively, we are still listening within our own frame of reference. We need to be able to listen within the other person’s frame of reference.
This requires maturity and strength of character from each party. We need to be secure in ourselves more than we need to be right, and regardless of other people’s opinions of us. This is what great leaders do.
The next step is to agree that neither party can make their point until they have restated the other person’s point to their satisfaction. This is the key step. Only when the other party feel understand can you state your perspective.
This is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength. Because you understand somebody does not mean that you necessarily agree with them, it just means that you see what they see.
The last step is for both parties to agree to search for a solution that is better than what either have proposed. This will require each one to hear the other one until they feel understood. Then collectively they can pursue a third alternative.
The synergy of the third alternative produces 1 + 1 = 3.
(This is an extract from Covey’s highly recommend 8th Habit book. It is available at most book stores, or you can order it online from Loot.co.za.)
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