The Recovering Farmer

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Third Person Approach

Sometime ago I heard an interesting discourse between my kids. One of them, trying to be silly, kept talking about himself in the third person. It can be funny as much as it may be irritating. Just imagine if you were having a conversation with me and each time I had something to share or ask I would begin the sentence with “Gerry is wondering.. . . . “ or Gerry would like. . . . “ or any other variation of that.

My grandson is getting quite vocal. He says so much with me understanding so little. He talks incessantly. It is neat to see. Parts of it are neat to hear. Other times you simply look at him and have no clue what he is saying. Because he repeats what others say it often comes across as a third person.

I have often alluded to the work I do. I deal with conflict. Simple. Two or more people in significant disagreement. So I listen. I explore. I counsel. Most anything that will help to resolve the conflict. That is what I do. If ever everyone in the world decides to get along, communicate properly and actually care about relationships, I will be out of work. I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. Perhaps I am okay till I retire or die. Whichever happens first.

Have you ever taken note that dealing with other people’s issues are simple? You recall sitting around the table with your partner, spouse, friend, neighbor? Sitting and passing judgement or suggesting helpful advice when others are in conflict? At least in your mind it is helpful. Bottom line? It is easier to solve conflict when you are removed from it.

So as a mediator you would think that Gerry would be able to deal and manage his own personal conflicts as well. For some strange reason that is not the case. Gerry’s wife will sometimes suggest that Gerry likes to create conflict. Whether that is true or not Gerry often finds himself frustrated, irritated, agitated, and even angry when having interactions on a one to one basis with others. The tools he utilizes in mediation seem to have been lost. If not lost left behind in his office.

As you will have noticed I wrote the last paragraph in “third person”. Quite honestly I found it much easier to characterize my conflict management styles by viewing them through the lens of a third person. It was easier to recognize who I was. Often after having been involved in conflict I will analyze what just happened. Normally I am filled with guilt and remorse because I see how that conflict could have been managed better and, perhaps, even avoided. In my analysis I am able to see where I went wrong. Where I could have done better.

Try this. Next time you are in a passionate discussion (read argument) remove yourself and view the conflict from the third person perspective. Perhaps at the outset you can analyze after the event. At some point you may want to call for a time out just to see where things are at and when you continue you are likely to have a completely different perspective. With enough practice you will be able to incorporate this approach in the heat of the moment. Try it. You may like it. As Dr. Douglas LaBier writes in The New Resilience, “. . . research found that you may think about a conflict more wisely if you consider it as an outside observer would”. Now if only I could teach this to the people I am in conflict with most. Might make Gerry’s life easier. Make it a good one.

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