In every conflict, there are really three sides to it (like a triangle): your truth on one side, their truth on the other and then the higher-level solution at the top.
If you stay stuck on your side of the triangle, you never solve the problem.
The Triangle of Truth, my new conflict resolution model, is a tool to help you break the stalemate. It's not about "compromise" or "right versus wrong." It's about being willing to engage in conflict in such a way that we allow something bigger, better and more inclusive to emerge.
Why do we need a new tool? Because the way we're currently managing conflict isn't working!
The funny thing is, everybody wants the other side to start listening and collaborating first. But it doesn't work that way.
We can whine and dither about how other people should be more enlightened and open-minded, or we can start helping them get there. If you want to recast disagreements, diffuse anger, and solve problems, you can't sit on the sidelines criticizing. If you want to elevate the dialogue, you have to be the one who leads the way.
You start by making a conscious effort to look for potential "truths" behind the imperfect ideas that imperfect people are offering.
Understanding someone else's truths doesn't mean that you have to agree to their plans; it just means that you're willing to hold a space for their perspective and that you're willing to see the potentially good intent behind a plan or idea you may not like.
You don't have to compromise your ideals. But just because their version of "better" looks different than yours, you needn't judge their intentions to be less than honorable.
When we express moral indignation over the imperfect solutions being presented by others, we aren't solving problems; we're contributing to them. When we start assuming bad intent, all creative discussion stops.
If we can pause long enough to look behind the surface shouting, we can rise above the either/or thinking that has limited us in the past.
That means giving people the benefit of the doubt and holding multiple perspectives in your mind at the same time.
The Triangle of Truth model is simple, but it's not easy. It means putting your own emotions, prejudice and ideas on pause, and directing your efforts toward uncovering the truths on the other side-truths we may not want to hear from people we may not like.
Do you want to be the person who is good at telling other people why they're wrong? Or do you want to be the person who brings out the best in people and who listens to what the other side has to say?
When we can learn to truly hear each other, there's no limit to what we can accomplish. But somebody has to be willing to start.
The real hero isn't the one who pits one side against the other. The real hero is the person who brings both sides together to create something even better.
Be the hero; start first.
This piece is excerpted from "The Triangle of Truth: The Surprisingly Simple Secret to Resolving Conflicts Large and Small" (Penguin), now available in paperback.
Lisa Earle McLeod is a business strategist and popular keynote speaker. She is the President of McLeod & More, Inc. an international training and consulting firm. Vist www.TriangleofTruth.com.