Find a Third Alternative - Step One
If you read yesterday's post, you know how to recognize a Third Alternative: it ends a disagreement with both of you happy.
Even Stephen Covey, who wrote about Third Alternatives in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, lost track of this first step when he also called this Win-Win negotiating. Almost everyone since has used this same name, and the name leads sales people, business leaders, and relationship therapists to completely miss the essential first step.
Finding Third Alternatives is not negotiating at all.
Step One: Jump the net!
You and your mate are on the same team. (For that matter, so are you and your customer, you and your subordinate, or you and your joint venture partner.) As long as you are on opposite sides of the net, there are only two alternatives. You may defend yours creatively, hoping to make your husband or wife see the light and agree with you, but you will not find a Third Alternative.
Jump the net. Tell your mate, "I want you to have what you want. I just cannot give it to you in this particular form. Let's come up with some specs for a Third Alternative."
Before we jumped the net on the laundry room disagreement, here are some of the things I said to my husband about putting it in the basement of the house we were building:
- "If it's in the basement, it will have a window and some natural sunlight." This was not a must-have for me, but I was pretty sure he would think it a great benefit of my getting my way on this one.
- "If the washer overflows, the water will go into the sump hole, not the family room." Neither of us had ever seen a washer overflow except on TV comedies, but what the heck, it might convince him.
- "We would not need to walk as far with the laundry basket." Yep, I was really reaching now.
I have heard some women even put some spin on the ball with something like, "How often do you think I am going to feel in the mood after lugging the laundry in there and washing in the dark?"
You might win a battle this way, but in the end you'll destroy your relationship with the most important person in your life.
When you jump the net, you give up your first alternative and stop offering any reasons to select it. You are going to get something you like just as much, so let it go. You get a bonus with a Third Alternative, too. You get a happy spouse who feels like a winner, too.
This is the step way too many people skip, and they seldom find themselves happy with the outcome. They are still negotiating, dividing the pie in two based on the final score in their little tennis match. You are on your way to making a bigger, tastier pie with your beloved mate, who is now standing right beside you.
Tomorrow, I will give you the recipe.