How can we transform conflict at home, at work, in our communities and in the world?
From the Global Negotiation Project at Harvard UniversitySend this page to a friendPrinter friendly page
What is the Third Side?
3S Assumptions
3S Skills
Where is it Working?
3S Roles Everyone Plays
Apply 3S to my Situation
Teach about the Third Side
Thirdside Conversations
Everyday Thirdside Actions
Keep me Informed

3S Assumptions

The assumptions that are foundational to the Third Side are a work in progress and like any assumption always open to inquiry.

We invite you to consider:

  • That conflict, in itself, is not a bad thing. Conflict is a natural and healthy process, necessary for making progress and dealing with injustice. The world may actually need more conflict, not less, if the appropriate skills are known and conflict can be managed productively.

  • That the goal is not to end or eliminate conflict but simply to transform the way it is expressed from destructive forms such as violence, abuse, and intolerance into constructive forms such as debate, dialogue, negotiation, and democracy.Conflict is inevitable; violence is not.

  • That the way to transform conflict is to create a strong container for creative contention. This container constitutes the Third Side of any conflict. The container can be created by the surrounding community -- friends, neighbors, witnesses, neutrals -- as well as by the parties themselves.

  • That you don't have to take sides in a conflict, nor do you need to be neutral. No matter where your sympathies lie, you can choose to take the Third Side, in other words, the side of the whole whether that is the family, the work organization, the community, or the world.

  • That you can choose to take the Third Side anytime in the conflicts around you. This means seeking to understand all sides to the conflict, encouraging a peaceful nonviolent process for engaging deep differences, and supporting an inclusive outcome that addresses the essential needs of all

  • That responding to conflicts productively requires courage, preparation, knowledge, skills, creativity and coordination.

  • That you have an important role to play in transforming the conflicts around you, whether you are one of the parties or a Witness to the conflict. You can make a significant difference.

  • That by working together in a systemic way, we can create a strong Third Side for even the most intractable conflict. As the old African proverb goes, "When spider webs unite, they can halt even a lion."

  • The Third Side is not a new idea. In some form, it exists in every culture. Indeed it is the most ancient human processes for dealing with deep differences. It does not belong to any group or organization; it is the common heritage of humanity. It belongs to you.