Problems and the Power Within 2

Confrontation and the third chair

Nobody likes confrontation. Actually, that’s not true, some people seem to seek out confrontations especially on social media. But generally, most people do not set out to create a confrontation in order to avoid the escalation; where feelings take over from logical thought and the slanging match or fight begins.

Yet as a business solutions provider aka coach, I often help individuals confront and resolve their issues through a better understanding of situations. Sometimes that solution requires them talking to the person with whom they always seem to be at loggerheads. Once again it is a power within technique that enables them to deal positively with the situation.

Third Chair Theory

In a negotiation or a future difficult discussion, the use of a third chair is helpful. It’s called the third chair as it assumes the discussion is between two people. The person with the issue and the person who facilitates the discussion. The facilitator first enables the discussion around the issues and problems faced by the individual. This includes their feelings. Both get a clear view on how the individual feels and thinks about the situation.

Sometimes the facilitator feels that they are being the person confronted, but should not respond as such. That is the role of the third chair. Here the individual physically moves to the other chair and discusses the issues and problems from the perspective of the third party. They should be encouraged to roleplay that person.

Through that discussion insights occur with an increased understanding of the situation. These might be around trigger words or concepts- ‘eg I’m always to blame’ or ‘you would say that’. For these the questions are why and how. Who, what and when informs other responses.

Confrontation Problem Solutions

Whenever I use the third chair, I am always fascinated by the level of understanding the individual has about the third party when asked to play their role. Often this leads to a different approach to the discussions in which both parties win and negative confrontation avoided.

Such as a recent example starting with ‘what does it matter if it’s only 10 minutes late’ turning into ‘I need you or a known person in your team to give me the data by 4.00 Thursday. I then have an hour to finalise my report for circulation to the board by 5.30’ understanding in the third chair.