Rediscovering the Third Side

Source: TED Talk

A Discussion of “The Walk from No to Yes”, a TED Talk by William Ury

In William Ury’s TED Talk, Getting to Yes, he talks about how even seemingly intractable conflicts  can be improved by utilizing the “Third Side”.  When people talk about conflicts, commonly the discussions are framed by talking about x versus y, or which two sides are in disagreement.  However, especially with the interconnectedness of humanity today, no conflict takes place in a vacuum. The third side is the friends, allies, family members, and neighbors of people who are in conflict.  Ury believes that the surrounding community plays an important role in all levels of conflict – from interpersonal to international – and can be leveraged in constructive ways to reach better solutions.

In the TED Talk, Ury says, “…Perhaps the most fundamental way in which the third side can help is to remind the parties of what’s really at stake. For the sake of the kids, for the sake of the family, for the sake of the community, for the sake of the future, let’s stop fighting for a moment and start talking. Because, the thing is, when we’re involved in conflict, it’s very easy to lose perspective. It’s very easy to react. Human beings — we’re reaction machines. And as the saying goes, when angry, you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”

Having the opportunity to regain perspective is important for people involved in a conflict.  One way to describe this is “getting on the balcony”, which is a metaphor stepping back and looking at the big picture.  Once people do this, they often realize that there are solutions to their conflict that they had not considered before.

So what can you do as a member of this third side? In a word, listen.  Engage people who seem different than you in conversation and take the time to hear what they have to say.  You might be surprised to find out how much you have in common.