7 Steps to Finding a Better, Third Option

This is a guest post by Jeremy Statton. He is an orthopedic surgeon and a writer. You can download a free copy of his eBook Grace Is. Connect with him on Twitter or his blog, Living Better Stories.

We are a culture that is accustomed to thinking in terms of two options:

  • Republicans versus Democrats
  • Cowboys versus Indians
  • Mac versus PC.
  • Yin versus Yang.
  • Yankees versus Red Sox.

Reaching the Third Floor - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/tc397, Image #8556139

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/tc397

When we view a problem, or the solution to a problem, we typically divide it into two different categories.

You are given a choice of either A or B.

Unfortunately, when we limit ourselves to only two options, we are limiting the possibilities of our solution. The best decisions often come not out of a selection of two choices, but instead out of the discovery of a better, third option.

When two different sides disagree, both are often right. Both have a valid perspective. Both represent possible solutions.

And both are wrong. All at the same time.

If you can find a way to combine the best elements of the seemingly two different solutions into one remedy, then you have found the third option.

This third option is much more than a compromise which gives up something to quickly settle a dispute. The third option represents an elegant solution to a problem. It is the discovery of something better than the first two presented.

Getting there, though, requires skill and work.

When two sides disagree, here are seven steps to help you find the third option:

  1. Be humble. The entire process depends on humility. The only way to find the third option is when two disagreeing sides lay down their egos and work together. Pride always looks for the self-serving solution. Ulterior motives are often in play. The focus has to be solving the problem for the good of everyone involved.
  2. Embrace the tension. Most of us fear conflict. When tension arises we try to quickly solve the problem and make it disappear. Instead of running from it, embrace it. Learn to identify this tension as an opportunity to find a third option.
  3. Learn to listen. If you enter the discussion convinced that you are right, then you have closed the door on any other possible options. The first step in finding a better solution is understanding those that disagree with you. Only through listening can you understand them and what motivates their point of view.
  4. Refuse to compromise. Finding the third option isn’t about caving in to the demands of others. If you are convinced that you are right on a certain aspect of the solution, then don’t give in. Make your point without unwavering. Everyone needs to hear your opinion.
  5. Liberate your team. Freedom to disagree without repercussion is the most important part of finding the third option. As a leader, it is your responsibility to create a culture where everyone feels free to express their opinion.
  6. Sleep on it. When debating a solution, the intensity of the moment may sway your opinion. Don’t feel like you have to discover the answer at once. Give yourself and your team time to digest the arguments. The third option may not be immediately obvious.
  7. Learn through mistakes. The enemy of good is better. Don’t waste too much time searching for the third option. At some point make the best decision you can and then carry it out. Often we find even better solutions to our problems once we put them into practice.

Great leaders understand that the world isn’t best viewed in terms of black and white. When a disagreement arises, they will lead their team beyond the tension and into a better, third option.

Questions: Do you limit yourself to two options? What has worked for you to find a better solution? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter


    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton


    • http://undistractedchristian.com/ Tyler Hess


  • Jaspreet

    I think the park will be great.  “Better than what it was,”

    “Dallas, Fort Worth, Construction Company, foundation repair, home remodeling, roofing”

  • http://www.BillintheBlank.com/ Bill Blankschaen

    Great thoughts, Jeremy! It always begins with thinking Win-Win.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I agree.

  • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

    Love it, Jeremy!  Especially #2 “Embrace the Tension”.  So many people run from tension because they are afraid of conflict and/or aren’t equipped to deal with it.  

    In my own experience, I would add to #4 by saying: “Refuse to compromise on what’s important”.  I should only refuse to compromise on the pieces that affect the outcome.  If something doesn’t affect the outcome, it doesn’t matter that I’m right.  Insisting that the other party acknowledge that I’m right about something that doesn’t affect the outcome could torpedo the quest to find option 3.

    Great post!  Thanks for writing!  

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Great point.

  • http://www.alslead.com/ Dave Anderson

    My dad, General Jim Anderson says:  “Be rigid in your values but flexible in your methods.”

    Read more about him here if you are interested:  http://andersonleadershipsolutions.com/james-anderson/

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      A wise dad.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Love that quote Dave – I want to steal…um, er…I mean borrow it!

  • Agatha Nolen

    Great wisdom today!
    I am a moderate in most decision-making and agree totally with your points about not compromising. You have to decide what points are value-based and non-negotiable versus those that are icing on the proverbial cake. Don’t die on every hill. But moderation and not compromise is what I’ll remember from your post.
    And–sleeping on it. This has proved invaluable. A lot of things, personal and professional, look a lot different in the morning light.
    Agatha Nolen

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      If we compromise, then we give in to someone else’s preference, which not only misses out on the 3rd option, but we can become frustrated ourselves.

  • Chandana Wickremarathne

    Dear Michael,

    I have read leadership in both work & life contexts for many years from many sources. Your blog , your books , your thoughts & ideas are  the most practical in my experience. I see great parallels of you & Dr.Stephen Covey’s principles. Thank you for your contributions that have supported changing lives – Chandana Wickremarathne ( In a leadership role with Kempinski Hotels & Resorts)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Chandra. I appreciate your kind words. I learned so much from Dr. Covey.

  • DeniseSpeer99

    Michael, you are my favorite writer…thanks for all of the useful information!

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Your post today reminds me of the concept of Synergy from Covey’s Seven Habits. 

    “Synergy is the creation of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.” 

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      1+1 can equal 3.

      • http://www.themakegoodchoicesproject.org/ Michael Hawkins

         1 + 1 can equal the world.

  • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret Wortman

    There was an excellent novel by Larry Niven called “The Mote in God’s Eye”. In it, one of the alien races (don’t worry, I won’t nerd out on you) had evolved two arms on one side and one arm on the other. They routinely spoke in terms of three options — “One the one hand…, on the other hand…, gripping hand…” 

    I haven’t read that book in decades, but it’s funny how that is the one element of the book that stuck with me over the years. That a physical difference could lead to a fundamental alteration in how they viewed decision-making, and one which impacted the humans they came in contact with.

    It may not be directly relevant, but the idea that decisions need not be binary definitely resonates.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      That’s very interesting, Bret. We can limit opportunities just based on viewing the world through what we see.

  • Cathy A. Norris

    I had to giggle to myself, Jeremy, when I read the 5 options with the 2 choices.  None of the example resonated with me.  Then it made me wonder if this is how the male species looks at options?  The discussions women have usually include way more options than necessary, but include a lot more than just two.   Collaboration is a word that comes to my mind that seems to work well.  It focuses the discussion on the process and the result rather than on the individual and who’s got the best answer.  It’s quite fun, when our egos get out of the way!

    On another matter…I’m new to blogging, adding comments, social media, etc. but plan on participating lots more as God has given me 3 big assignments to work on.  I’m admittedly a tech nerd and don’t know how to change my name from giblesc to Cathy A. Norris & put in my picture.  I would appreciate the how to advice, if anyone is willing to share!

    • Cathy A. Norris

      Oh…look at that I accidentally figured out how to change the header name.  Now I’m giggling at myself!  Bet I can now figure out how to add a pic!  Guess not yet…got this message…more learnings!

      Sorry, but the file you are trying to upload is larger than 2.10 MBs. You can either crop your image, or try to upload something smaller

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Thanks for sharing that perspective. I don’t know about the male vs female perspective on this. As a guy, we tend to think of competitions and teams and battles. You are either for me or against me. Only two options.

      • http://Thefieldgeneral.com/ Chris Coussens

        Popular thought says women can have frenemies. We guys are less sophisticated.

      • Cathy A. Norris

        Jeremy, the guy perspective you described seems to be what I’ve experienced as a female watching.  I love teams and competition, however, putting winning over building relationships is where I have the rub.

         The neat thing about perspectives is that it is possible to open & widen them to more when we have the self-awareness of how our current perspective works or doesn’t work.

        Thinking that our own perspective is always the best perspective (because that’s the only one we’ve grown accustomed to) is where the trouble lies – that’s when you only get two options.

  • http://twitter.com/ReginaMaeWrites Regina Mae

    Great post, Jeremy!  I’m an attorney and family court mediator.  A big part of what I do in mediation is walk people through these seven steps.  By the time they get to mediation, each side has spent a year getting entrenched in their idea of what a “win” is.  By getting them to step outside those ideas, we can come up with incredibly creative solutions that allow everyone to feel like they got a win.

    Most couples wouldn’t need lawyers, guardians or mediators if they were willing to follow these seven steps on their own. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes being faced with the sure knowledge that a judge is about to decide their life for them before they are willing to do this.

    • http://www.clayproductions.com/ Aaron Johnson

       Regina, I’d be interested to know any go-to questions or things you have found helpful as a mediator that have been most effective in walking people into this kind of thinking.

      • http://twitter.com/ReginaMaeWrites Regina Mae

        Some of the things I’ve found helpful is reminding each party to look beyond what they are asking for to what they really want.  For example, one custody dispute involved a twelve year old boy who lived with his dad.  Mom filed for custody.  I asked her if what she was really concerned about was where her son slept at night, because it seemed like her concern was really about his education.  

        Sometimes, people just need an opportunity to vent their frustrations with their spouse (or former spouse) and the system, and then you can get them to start working toward the solution.

        Also, once you get agreement on ANY issue, that gives you a building block to build more agreement on more issues.  “Look how much progress we’ve made.  We’ve agreed on x, y and z.  Now let’s see what we can do about this next issue.”

        • http://www.clayproductions.com/aaron/ Aaron Johnson

           Thanks Regina, these would be incredibly useful in dealing with conflicts.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      “Entrenched” is a great word for this. Disagreement doesn’t have to be a battle. It can be an opportunity.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Great insight Regina, I think engagement of a competent 3rd-party mediator can be a great way to reboot a stalled negotiation or discussion.

  • Marv

    I think its YIN vs Yang

  • http://gauraw.com/ Kumar Gauraw

    Loved this, “Freedom to disagree without repercussion is the most important part of finding the third option.”
    Thank you for this awesome post. It is a great way to look at the situation when there is a conflict.

    • Jim Martin

      Good point Kumar.  We really do limit the process when those in the room know their will be come sort of repercussion for saying what they think.  

  • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

    I’m in the middle of a couple different decisions, and it is interesting how I gravitated to two options, usually extreme opposites. When I realized we could probably come up with a compromise, pulling the good from both, I felt great relief. You verbalized the process well, Jeremy. Thanks!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I hope this works out even better for you.

  • Sohmm

    Great post as it’s a timely and helpful to me as someone who is mediating conflict between other leaders. The idea of “embracing the tension” is especially helpful as I urge those who would avoid conflict or believe it is wrong to lean into conflict in order to work through it.

  • http://KatieAxelson.com/ Katie Axelson

    When I graduated undergrad last spring, I figured I had two options: graduate school or a full-time job. When both appeared to be eliminated, I fell into a third option: freelance work. It’s not something I would have ever considered but I’m loving it.

    Thanks, Jeremy.


    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Good story.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Very “elegant” solution Katie – that’s a great workable option!

  • Pastorkimberly

    I have benefited tremendousely through these principles . It has been right on time with issues I am dealing with. I really appreciate everything!

  • http://www.producewithpassion.com/ Dan McCoy

    Wow, a breath of fresh air.   It’s great to see that someone else also understands that in any negotiation a compromise shouldn’t be a going in position.   I highly recommend you read Jim Camp’s “Start with No”.   I’ve have had the priviledge to be coached by Jim Camp who is arguably the world’s best known and greatest negotiation coach.  In that he teaches that Win-Win is really lose-lose.  I know that some of you may disagree right at this very moment you are reading this but consider this.  A win win negotiation going in position already assumes that someone is going to have to give something up to get the deal.  That’s a compromising mentality and it can be dangerous if not recognized.   Your approach is spot on in the win-win is really about thinking in THEIR world, asking interrogative led questions, and working on solution that both parties flourish in.  Your approach to a negotion must have a valid mission and purpose and that purpose can’t be set in your world.  Both parties can be happy in the outcome and not feel like they were stripped of something they really wanted to get the deal. Oh and as a side note, this also boils over into all negotiations.  You know the one’s you have with your spouse, kids and people you interact with…. Yep they are all negotiations in which your thoughts can apply too.   Great article.

  • http://www.LifeImpactMinistries.net/ Davidgrissen

    If you follow number 4 of your article, don’t we get back to the 2 options only?  In our political system, for example, our political reps are applying #4 while talking about doing your other points and blaming the other side.  Perhaps number 4 should be, “Be willing to compromise for the greater good.”  That wouldn’t mean caving in — I could still have my strong opinions, but I hold those a little more tentatively for the sake of accomplishing something greater than I can envision by myself.

    We also run into the issue of philosophy in this — what is the framework that drives my leadership?  Your suggestion of a third option on the larger political level was tried by Marx — dialectical materialism.  Point, counterpoint, compromise to a third option bringing us ultimately to Utopia.  Guess that didn’t work either!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      You might get back to two options, but not necessarily. The third option isn’t about compromising, it is about listening and learning and being able to see something different. 

  • Bonnie Clark

    Ask “what if” questions.  Possibilities are always inclusive.  Don’t assess whether something is possible, only if you can imagine it.  THEN ground the possibilities in reality, requests, promises, planning and commitment.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Great point Bonnie! I used to work in the telecommunications industry, which is still heavily unionized. The most effective line of questioning that the company’s best negotiators used centered around “What If” questioning!

  • ChadMillerBlog

    Great post! I was especially interested in #5, “Liberate your team.”
    We never know where the best ideas are going to come from, and often it is through listening to other’s perspective that we find the 3rd, 4th, 5th (etc.) solution that leads to better options.
    Personally, when I’m at a stale mate, I like to bring in someone from outside the department to gain a fresh outlook on resolutions. We only present the problem without making any arguments for solution until we have heard from this outside opinion.
    This also creates multi-department buy-in which is a huge win across the organization.
    Thanks for sharing some great wisdom, Jeremy.

  • http://www.clayproductions.com/ Aaron Johnson

    Jeremy, Thanks for giving us great food for thought on this Friday.

    #3 – Learn to Listen – From taking a solution focused therapy class, I’ve learned to listen asking a couple questions, “What does this person fear, or What are they really concerned about?” Usually, it’s something almost completely unrelated to the issue at hand.

    Though we pretend to be completely rational, most of us let our fears drive us, and we assume that we have to look out for ourselves. So, when people know that we care about their concerns, they tend to drop the black and white thinking and become open to more innovative ways of dealing with the issue.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I love this, Aaron. It is something I have to do with my patients and my kids in particular. To try to understand why they are upset instead of reacting to them.

      • http://www.clayproductions.com/ Aaron Johnson

        I guess it’s why Covey emphasized listening as our #1 tool. What’s encouraging is that we have a constant stream of opportunities.

  • http://www.LaurindaOnLeadership.com/ Laurinda Bellinger

    Great post Jeremy. I’ve experienced profound moments of creativity by embracing tension.  I also refuse to sucked into the extreme side of any issue. I think the media has a lot to do with polarizing the different sides. But even within the church, the “creationist” vs “evolutionist” debate is getting more polarizing.  I’ve wondered if there’s  3rd option between the two. 

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I personally find this to be a really good example. 

  • Sjohnson

    Pick your battles, not all things are important enough to go to battle over. And, it is not important to be right about everything. If we can see this and apply it to our perspectives on issues that we come into conflict with it makes it easier to consider others opinions and ideas and find that 3rd option.

    Problem is getting past our pride and need for being right. At least that is been my experience. 

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Pride is a huge obstacle.

  • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

    Fantastic post Jeremy! The “either or” option you highlight is a great example of the logical fallacy known as the “forced choice” or “false dilemma.” 

    It happens a lot with political rhetoric, “If you’re not for change than you’re for the status quo” or “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” That simplistic approach to a problem is counter productive. 

    I love your point about laying our egos aside – true collaboration and discussion on complex topics starts there!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      It can be extremely complex. So much so, that we may even confuse or delude ourselves.

  • Dianaflegal

    About 8 years ago I read a book, Color Outside the Lines by Howard Hendricks and Charles Swindol that mentioned this concept of A verses B. and that often the solution was AB. It resonated with me then as this does with me now. Then I was a Pastors wife and saw so much indecision from the church board because they could not decide, A or B. Now I see it in the publishing industry as well, as a literary agent.  
    Thank you for boiling this down into a check  list for us to review and consider.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Sounds like a helpful book.

    • http://www.clayproductions.com/ Aaron Johnson

       Hendricks is one of my heros. The navigators have an old recording that he did on creativity and character that really changed the trajectory of my life.

  • http://www.changevolunteers.org/ Change Volunteer

    I agree. Gray could be an option. I like the 6th point the most. You can have a ‘Eureka’ moment after hours of deliberation. Procrastination sometimes works in our favor.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton


  • Kim Thomas


  • http://intentionaltoday.com/ Ngina Otiende

    Great post Jeremy.

    I am the kind of person who sees things as either black or white :) all though I am learning to change this default setting.

    In his book The DNA of Relationships, Garry Smalley talks about collaboration (as opposed to compromise) when it comes to finding a solution that makes both parties happy. It’s about working on a win-win solution, crafting something that will not make one party feel like they ‘lost’ something. 

    I am working hard to put this in practice..esp in marriage!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Marriage is another great example of how important this is.

  • http://Thefieldgeneral.com/ Chris Coussens

    A positive additional thought, I hope. If you cannot come up with a third option, or cannot agree on an option, run a time-limited test. Pick an option and say we will try this for x period of time then revisit.
    1. Do set a hard date to revisit.
    2. Do not talk about the conflict during the trial period.
    3. The “weaker” person’s idea gets tried first ( weaker can mean a lot of things, boss vs employee, majority vs minority, politically strongest.) the weaker party knows the stronger can probably overpower the decision in the end. Trying the stronger parties solution first seems ingenious. Trying the weaker parties solution first shows a willingness to work towards a solution.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I agree, Chris.

  • http://www.margaretfeinberg.com/ Margaret

     The third option calls people to a higher place, pulls them to a higher standard

    • Jim Martin

      You make a good point Margaret.  The third place really does call for participants to look beyond themselves and their opinions and be willing to seek a solution at this level.

  • http://twitter.com/averageus Lon Hetrick

    Yes – but…
    #4 contradicts #1 and prevents #7. Anyone agree?

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Do you want to elaborate?

    • http://www.LifeImpactMinistries.net/ Davidgrissen

       Yes, I agree.  I think sometimes compromise is necessary for the common good, and that doesn’t mean we are giving up our convictions.  None of us is totally right on everything anyway.  So humility must be the foundation.  I see things from my perspective, and you from yours.  If I allow your perspective to take ascendency for the greater good in a situation, that doesn’t mean I’m going against my conviction — it means I’m moving forward in humility for a greater purpose than holding to my present conviction.  I don’t thank that applies to clear moral issues, however, defined by the 10 commandments.

    • http://www.whiteboardbusiness.com/ Dallon Christensen

      I disagree. You can be humble and still hold firm to a conviction. If you are willing to go along to get along on everything, sooner or later you will violate your values. As for #7, perhaps the mistake will be that you held firm to something for which you should have compromised. 

      We can compromise while holding firm to our convictions. This is how negotiations work where a win-win situation occurs. As the late, great Stephen Covey put it in “7 Habits”, “Think win-win.” How do I “win” if I have sacrificed one of my core values?

      Lon, I do see your point of view, and there are times where you are absolutely right. Only we can look inside ourselves and know, as I heard one time, “which hill we are willing to die on.” (figuratively speaking, of course!)

  • John

    Excellent Post. Timely, too. People need to learn how to communicate–be open. The discourse that we all witness today, especially with respect to politics is dis-COARSE. There is “no freedom to disagree” Disagreement is seen as intolerance. I would also add one other thing.  If people want to debate, then need to know how –what ever happened to logic? Some would rather hold on to their position on something, yell and scream and cry but have no facts with which to support the position they hold so dear. That’s too much work.

  • http://unknownjim.com/ Jim Woods

    Jeremy, great post. It’s a fallacy to act like there are only two choices when there are MANY more. I think faulty logic is used more and accepted more often as the truth.

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    Great post Jeremy and congrats on the guest post! Looking for the third option is always a better way, Dan Miller talks a lot about this. It doesn’t have to be an either/or.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Thanks. Good to hear from you Kimanzi.

  • http://twitter.com/Berin_Kinsman Berin Kinsman

    If only more people were open to other possibilities, rather than becoming entrenched in defending the one option they’ve chosen.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

    I wonder how computers make do with no options other than 0 and 1. 

  • Cathy Roberts

    Has anyone in our government read this? 

  • http://SourcesOfInsight.com/ JD Meier

    Beautiful insights!

    In my experience, the sooner that I co-create “a bigger playing field”, and help people expand their views, the faster the collaboration starts to flow.

    Finding the third options almost always flows form an abundance mentality.

    I’ve found the fastest way to get to an abundance mentality, or to get out of a scarcity mentality, is to “take away the threat.”  A simple way to find the “threat” is to ask someone, “What’s the concern?”
    … and often this is surprising (or at least revealing.)

    AND … it instantly opens doors for authentic connection, and true collaboration.

    The other interesting thing I’ve noticed is that it’s important to “team up” — meaning, act as if we are both really looking at this problem, *together*, on the same team.  Otherwise, it can easily turn into a “for” or “against” match, and that’s an instant lose-lose.

    Edward de Bono has shared some brilliant practices in his book, “How To Have a Beautiful Mind.”  He speaks about how we create curiosity, and how we demonstrate and create an environment that leads to third alternatives.

    The most useful skill I’ve found in going through the process of finding alternatives is rhetoric.

    Rhetoric is the art of aruging without anger.   It’s all too easy to make smart points, but lose connection … because of the edge, or the tone, or the perspective.   This is where true emotional intelligence comes into play.

    As we know, the key here is, “rapport before influence”, and rhetoric is a great way of staying connected, even while asserting conviction.

    One of the most useful self-awareness tools I’ve found regarding conflict management is, Thomas-Kilman’s Conflict Mode Instrument.  Once you know your preferred conflict style, you can better adjust and adapt to different situations.  You can also quickly identity other people’s preferred conflict style, and that is gold when it comes to your negotation strategy.

    And of course, one of the best ways to explore finding the best option, is to ask better questions.

    The revealer of great questions, is the revealear of great truth … and once you shine the light on truth, it’s a powerful and enabling thing, and people feel it in their bones.

    You can’t hide great and powerful 3rd alternatives … they like to be revealed.

    So the challenge to us, and before us is … reveal more great and powerful 3rd alternatives ;)

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Thanks for the thoughts, JD.

  • http://www.brandongilliland.com/ Brandon Gilliland

    Great post! Thanks for sharing these tips! You will always have disagreements and confrontation. It is important to know how to handle the situations.

  • http://www.thadthoughts.com/ Thad Puckett

    This resonates with me, not because we have much conflict at work, but because of a presentation I heard today at the Willow Creek Association’s Global Leader Summit.  William Ury framed what you are suggesting by encouraging opponents in a conflict (or differing perspectives on a matter) by trying to identify your interests and appealing to  the interests of the other party.  In working toward resolution, focusing on interests (as opposed to positions), leads to a better, third option (in many instances).

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I agree. This is an important perspective to start out with. You are trying to identify where everyone wants to end up.

  • Jim Martin

    This is an excellent post, Jeremy.  I like the way you express this.  Reading your post is a reminder that quite often there really are other options, instead of the situation being an either/or.

  • Cherry Odelberg

    Thank you, this is helpful and concise.  I believe in the third option. Most leaders and most followers are not patient enough to “sleep on it.”

  • http://derekouellette.com/ Derek Ouellette

    Jeremy, are you aware of the theological concept known as “postconservative”? Because this post describes one to a T.

    Great article!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      No, I’m not.

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  • Lisa Hess

    Thank you for this timely post. Having just made a momentous decision that I hope will lead to a third option, I’m currently living in the tension, and not liking it very much. I’m tucking this into my journal for future reference.

  • http://dalemelchin.wordpress.com/ Dale Melchin

    I think about this problem all the time and here is why.  I work at a union shop for telecommunications, and I see the stuff that goes on between “The Company” and “The Union” and what they both fail to realize is that that the interests are the same.  “The Company” wants to make  a profit and the Union wants to get paid.  The same idea applies in politics, and other relationships and its a darn shame when people fail to see that there is always another option or a 3rd way.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      The goal is to find a way that the union can get paid and the company can make a profit.

  • Dawn Vesco

    I have always believed there were three sides or options,even to a coin!  You used defining parameters that are “workable” and time conscious for all the considerations needed in the decision making.Great post!

  • http://www.supermanagerblog.com/bookinfo/ Greg Blencoe


    Thanks for the post.

    Though I’m a little better at it now, the one thing that was difficult for me in the past was taking the time to really see things from the other person’s perspective.  I used to just immediately dismiss opinions that I didn’t agree with.  But now I try to take the time to think about where the person is coming from.  This process will either reinforce what I believe or I will change part or all of my position.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Good for you, Greg. It’s hard to do this but incredibly helpful.

  • http://twitter.com/JeremySCook Jeremy Cook

    True, good to think outside of the box.  However, sometimes I do think it comes down to A or B like it or not.  Maybe figuring out if there is a legitimate C is paramount.  On the other hand, I use Linux, so I guess that’s a “C.”

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton


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  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    In a presidential election year, my wife and I have discussed votes and problems that need to be addressed. In addition to our passionate disagreements, we’re having a very vocal, politically-active guest in our home in 2 weeks. As I read this post, I recognize the freedom it offers for our future conversations and what we really want to address–workable solutions that incorporate the wisdom of both positions. Doubt Washington will listen but I’m looking forward to further thoughts and discussions. Thanks, Jeremy, for an excellent, practical article.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      On a related point, elections might be more interesting if we actually had 3 legitimate options like they do in some other countries.

  • D. McWilliams

    This is great…It is my life’s philosophy….WE MUST think outside of the box!  Thanks for sharing.

  • http://PracticeThis.com/ Alik Levin

    I like the framing for third option. Interesting enough I switched roles at work and I am in the position to be the full time third option guy. Your insights would be useful for me when defending my third option or when adopting option 1 or 2.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Sounds like a fun role. 

  • http://twitter.com/erintarr Erin Tarr

    I often use this with the next generation, when they back themselves into the “sucker’s game” of only two choices … both of which end up with them “losing.”  So liberating for teenagers to see that they have options … created by the power of their own mind! :)

  • http://www.matthewreedcoaching.com/ Matthew Reed

    Embracing the tension! What a great concept. I know that as I coach people through problem solving exercises, there is a great temptation to throw in the towel and just make the quickest to implement solution. 
    When I can encourage people to ‘Stay in this moment’ even when it is painful, more and better options usually surface.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Great analogy.

  • http://www.robsorbo.com/p/welcome-from-disqus.html Rob Sorbo

    I think I instinctively keep looking for another option, but tend to settle on one of the traditional 2.

  • http://sickchurch.wordpress.com/ Brent Dumler

    From a church leadership perspective, and from nearly 20 years in ministry, point #5 (liberate your team) really resonated with me.  With the exception of my current staff position, I can unfortunately say that I’ve never worked with a Lead Pastor who could/would truly offer this kind of freedom to the staff without consequences.  Its simple.  Liberating your staff creates trust…and a staff that trusts each other works well together and is ultimately freed to carry out God’s will without feeling like they are walking on glass.  Great post, Michael.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Great points about trust, Brent! It made me think about Pat Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. If you haven’t read this yet, it’s a great book to go through as a team.

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  • http://teamaidan.wordpress.com/ Heather Bowie

    Oh I love this. Life really is grey and is so much better that way when we learn from others (except Red Sox, Mac, dessert, ocean are all really better).
    Thanks for sharing.

  • coachamydevries

    Hey Jeremy!  Is there a way to “share” this post on facebook?  I hit “like” but want it to have more visibility by “sharing” it. Do you have it published somewhere else that will share it?  Thanks!

  • John Jolley

    The tallest building in DC could probably have its 535 members take a lesson or two…

    Nice post!