When we are in a complex situation with much going on dividing our experience into halves is not often useful. How often have you encountered an either/or situation where neither option is particularly attractive?
Thinking in triads is far more useful for understanding complex situations. One of the simplest ways to do this is to adopt a Third Position. The third position is meant to create a simulated space for generating new insights and observations that are taken from a third-person perspective, that is not your own. Nor, is it of the competing party or those looking to take a contrary position.
The Third Position is not to be confused with the political movement of the same name, rather it is a means of framing negotiations and for scenario development.
How to take the Third Position
The strategy works in three steps.
- Recognize a context where you can observe something as a third party that you are / or were involved in. This could be some kind of interaction or a decision context. Create a vivid recollection or even write down what this scenario looks like and note what you are thinking, observing, and feeling. Also note what contrary or challenging positions there are to the one you are stepping away from.
- Next, try to step away from this position and shed any sensations you might have from the first scenario and bring in a curious attitude by asking questions about what you see, feel, sense, and experience from that first step. What does this look like and feel?
- The third step is to evaluate what you perceive from this ‘third position.’ Note where there are points of agreement, disagreement and where there are new insights that are not explored by either of the two sides. This allows you to see things from a dispassionate perspective and notice things that might influence how either of the two parties might be making a decision. This could include things like understanding the role of stress, situational factors like time pressures, or information and knowledge gaps that are previously unrecognized.
The Third Position is away of gaining alternative perspectives on a situation when there is no reliable third party to observe. It’s a means of doing checks on your thinking and actions as well as anticipating or hypothesizing what others might be doing. It’s useful for checking assumptions and recognizing where there are gaps in our understanding and knowledge.
By learning these and becoming aware of them we can better avoid the problems they create and take advantage of the benefits they offer.