1 From fools choice to the third alternative
So far we have focused on you. In this section we will focus on the interaction between you and ‘them’.
Conflict is usually a result of two opposing opinions about what is right. This is what Kerry Patterson (author of Crucial Conversations) calls the ‘fools choice’; there are only 2 possibilities – either I am right or I am wrong. This occurs when, in a conflict we believe we are absolutely right, which means that the other person must be wrong.
But there is always a third alternative which builds on our respective viewpoints – and this is where you will find resolution.
And this is the key to constructive conflict. It is collaboration, which is grounded in the belief that what others have to offer is of value and could add to what you have to offer, to produce synergistic results.
If you genuine believe that you cannot have all the answers, that your reality is only a piece of the puzzle, then your approach to differences of opinion changes completely. You become motivated by a need to get all the information – “filling the pool of shared meaning” – rather than proving that you are right.
This will reflect in the way you talk to and approach people. It is what will make it safe for other’s to share their views honestly and openly, which is critical to open dialogue and moving from two conflicting positions or opinions, to one shared understanding that is greater than where you started.