I’ve often been criticized or even ridiculed for believing in that there is a third alternative in any given situation. I’ve been called an unrealistic optimist – my cousin wasn’t too shy about sharing her skepticism with me when we debated on the subject.
The irrefutable fact is though, that there is almost always a Third Alternative and we each have the responsibility to pursue it fervently in all our endeavors. There are those rare times when the Third Alternative is not necessary but I’ve found that in most situations it’s not only warranted but necessary.
What is the Third Alternative? The Third Alternative is the synergy between two or more parties and their ideas that produces results that are not only desirable to all parties involved but is exponentially greater than the independent thoughts before they came together. (I know – long sentence; let me break it down a bit.)
Essentially, when you arrive at the Third Alternative, everyone involved in a given situation not only walks away happy but with much more than they’d expected in the first place. This, in the view of many, may seem an unrealistic goal especially when I assert that this option almost always exists in almost any situation. I believe it, I live it and I’ve seen it time and time again.
The Third Alternative is possible each and every time, parties get together to negotiate or resolve an issue. If they come to the table with the genuine intent to see that everyone is happy with the outcome to the situation, you will see the Third Alternative in action. Because people usually enter a negotiation or situation with different expectations, it is entirely possible that not every party will be happy at the onset of the process. Focused on a desirable result for all though, flexibility , understanding, creativity and ingenuity kick in to bring about a Third Alternative that is better than all the ideas put together.
The Third Alternative says that you are open; it says that you embrace the new; it says that you abhor the status quo; it says that you can change if the change leads to the good of all. This is what the Third Alternative is all about.
What’s Not the Third Alternative? Before we explore just exactly how you arrive at the Third Alternative, I feel that it’s important to clarify what it is not.
The Third Alternative is not Win/Lose. In a win/lose exchange, one party always wins and the other always loses which means someone is going home unhappy – with a raw deal. This is not good for either party – even if the “winner” feels like he got away clean, it won’t be for long. Resentment is an emotion that often brews slowly and then unleashes in the nastiest ways imaginable. I don’t think the so-called winner would want to be the winner at this point. Also, Win/Lose doesn’t make for successful relationship cultivation either. The friendship will be rotten before it even gets started.
The Third Alternative is not Lose/Win. Again, it breeds resentment and distrust. People who go for Lose/Win tend to lack confidence and courage to pursue their desires which makes it impossible to ever reach the Third Alternative. The Third Alternative can only be realized when each party has the confidence and the courage to convey true desires – then and only then can the results be the best and magnified ten-fold or one thousand-fold for that matter.
The bottom line is that, the Third Alternative cannot exist among those who seek to win at all cost and those who see to please at any price.
Those who seek to win at all cost don’t care how they arrive at the win just so long as they win. This is a short-term strategy that almost always has no longevity whatsoever and in my opinion no chance of survival in the long run. Those who seek to please at any price tend to whine and complain about not having meanwhile they consistently compromise their goals, desires and values to appease others in the hope that it will be better next time. This by and large is never the case because if you seek to lose – you will.
The Third Alternative in Action There are 7 keys to seeing the Third Alternative in action aside from being a fly on the wall while it’s happening. J
Genuine intent – your intentions must be pure. You have to go in with the genuine intent to seek a solution that is for the good of all parties involved. This has to be your mission in order for you to have the right direction – be guided by the correct map.
Be open – If you have genuine intent, then this one is easy – they go hand in hand. In order to reach the Third Alternative, you have to be open to other ideas. You have to embrace newness and change. When you seek the Third Alternative, the possibilities are limitless.
Confidence and Courage – You have to believe in your position so that you can clearly state your desires. If you do not present your desires with conviction and clarity, no one will know what you truly want and therefore you rob others of the opportunity to consider your true desires. The Third Alternative requires truth in order to be realized.
Desire to listen and understand – This key is very important; you must have a true desire to listen and understand the other parties. This is the only way your creative self can truly seek the best solution. The better you understand the others’ desires, the easier it will be for you to find synergy among the ideas.
Be flexible – Flexibility is key because you must be able to adapt quickly and effortlessly when seeking the Third Alternative. This is the way you show your willingness to embrace newness and change for the good of all.
Be creative – Adhering to the other keys will more easily give rise to your most creative self. The Third Alternative requires creativity in order to be successful – to find synergy and common ground – to change.
Be prepared to walk away – This key is almost always not necessary because the other keys taken together are almost always effective. Still, if it becomes necessary, you must be prepared to walk away. Many people have a hard time with this concept – walking away from what seems like a good deal just because everyone is not happy. That is exactly what I’m saying though. If for some reason a creative Third Alternative is not possible, then this becomes the Third Alternative. It’s either a Win/Win or walk away. No deal is better than a raw deal – period!
It’s Unrealistic Is it really so difficult to grasp – really? I believe that the people who say this are married to the status quo – leaders believe in the possibilities. Who decides what’s realistic and what’s not? Is there an authority designated in the area or realism that I am unaware of? I didn’t think so.