Frequently Asked Questions

Isn't "war" human nature?

How can I be a thirdsider when I have a preference for a side?

How can I strengthen my ability to hold a thirdside perspective?

What are the skills I need to be a thirdsider?

What are the assumptions behind the Third Side?

What if I'm fearful of taking the Third Side?

Why should I care?

How do I build a thirdside community and spread the thirdside vibe?



Isn't "war" human nature?
Destructive conflict, which disrupts our homes, work organizations, communities, and world, is widely accepted as an inevitable and prominent part of human existence. It's hard not to believe after the most violent century on record with a hundred million victims of war and another hundred and seventy million victims of political violence and almost a million cases of domestic violence every year. But what if destructive conflict was preventable - and we did not know it? What if the biggest obstacle to prevention lay in our fatalistic beliefs? What if all those innocent children, women, and men dying from a stray bullet on our streets, from a terrorist bomb or an air raid - what if they were dying needlessly from a disease as preventable as smallpox?

The book The Third Side: Why We Fight and How We Can Stop contains a systematic inquiry into this question. It examines what we know about human nature, seeking to reconstruct a more accurate story of our human past and possible future. A few of the findings from the book are that

An interesting analysis of this subject entitled "Is War Our Biological Destiny?" appeared in the New York Times, please Click Here

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How can I be a thirdsider when I have a preference for a side?
A thirdsider can prefer one side of a conflict. The essence of being a thirdsider is not "objectivity", but the knowledge that there is room for many perspectives in a conflict, and that the goal is a resolution satisfying to all. Your task is to be true to your preference as well as to the interests of the whole.

Nelson Mandela is a perfect example of a man who had a strong preference for one side, yet maintained a thirdside perspective. A thirdsider does not have to be neutral or unemotional. You can have a very passionate voice as a thirdsider as you share your experiences, knowledge, and desire for a solution that will work for everyone.

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How can I strengthen my ability to hold a thirdside perspective?
Holding the thirdside perspective requires practice; you need to be willing to try it again and again and again. There are conflicts and situations around us everyday that provide a field of practice for each of us. Choose any of these and attempt to take a thirdside perspective.

First, remember to go to the balcony. Distance yourself emotionally and physically far enough from the situation so that you can see it in its entirety. From here you can learn to manage your emotions; know when your emotions are triggered; and allow yourself to have these emotions and not be them. Being self-aware is an excellent first step. Over time you will find yourself being triggered less often.

Begin to notice any hidden assumptions that might be blinding you to a vision of the whole. Be open to the possibility that others - even those with whom you profoundly disagree - may hold a piece of the answer that must be included in order to make progress.

Let go of blame and find both/and rather than either/or ways to see. As you look at a conflict, always seek a solution that meets the interests of all parties, including the surrounding community. From this perspective you can generate creative options.

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What are the skills I need to be a thirdsider?
TSeeing, listening, and speaking from a thirdside perspective are skills critical to performing each thirdsider role. Information on each of these skills may be found on this website: Please visit 3S Skills to learn more. Practice is essential to mastering each of these skills. They will become second nature as you use them.

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What are the assumptions behind the Third Side?
Our understanding of the Third Side is based on a set of assumptions that are, like any assumptions, open to inquiry. Don't accept these assumptions without first seeing if they are right for you. Find out for yourself and from your own experience how these assumptions work in your life and in your community. You can find the current 3S assumptions here on the website.

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What if I'm fearful of taking the Third Side?
There are both personal and societal reasons for not coming forward. Going to the balcony and understanding your fear is the first step. Here are some of the more dominant reasons people do not take the Third Side.

Personal reasons include:

Some societal reasons include

If you are having these feelings, determine if there is any real threat to yourself and use your best judgment. It's often helpful to remember situations from our past in which we have successfully entered a conflict as a thirdsider and helped bring about positive results for everyone. If a conflict feels too dangerous for you to comfortably enter consider how you can support the conflict as a witness and bring people's attention to the situation; this is an important thirdside role.

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Why should I care?
Destructive conflict tears our families apart, causes our companies to founder, ruptures our communities, and destroys our nations. Every year in the United States alone, twenty thousand people are murdered; almost a million girls and women are assaulted or raped by a current or former partner; more than fifteen million lawsuits are filed and more than a hundred and fifty billion dollars spent on legal costs. On the world stage, the wars in the former Yugoslavia, with their tens of thousands of casualties and millions of refugees, are also, tragically, not unique. At the turn of the millennium, more than two dozen full-scale wars are raging in the world, as are dozens of other violent intergroup conflicts. Even in the absence of war, there is terrorism. Everyone, everywhere, is vulnerable.

If we could transform our conflicts into constructive dialogues, the payoff for each of us individually and altogether would be enormous. Our families would be happier, our workplaces more productive, our neighborhoods more congenial, and our world a good deal safer.Click here to evaluate the cost of conflict in a situation you are familiar with.

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How do I build a thirdside community and spread the thirdside vibe?
Most importantly, you don't need to start from scratch. Instead, begin with what you already do and add an extra thirdside dimension. Parents can help their children learn how to deal with conflicts constructively. A teacher can weave a conflict resolution strand into the subject matter, whether it is history, social studies, or languages. A minister can help people apologize and forgive. A lawyer can facilitate the creative resolution of conflicts by practicing "collaborative lawyering" or mediation. A journalist can spotlight emergent conflicts for public attention. A police officer can mediate domestic disputes informally.

Some of us may have special talents as Teachers, others as Mediators, and still others as Peacekeepers. The key is to identify your distinctive competence and incorporate it into what you do every day. As you find your place in the wider community, begin to look around and see if essential thirdside roles are being played. If you find a gap bring it to the attention of the community and support the ability to have these roles filled. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you need to do it all yourself. Recruit help. This is how you begin to develop your thirdside web within your community.

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