I watched a video clip about the Electoral College yesterday where they used the words “The Third Option,” a phrase I’ve been using quite a bit in the past few months. I’ve found this to be a good brainstorming tool to move beyond right or wrong, black or white, your way or my way.
Why do things have to be right or wrong? If you look at big stuff such as killing someone, which I think most people believe is “wrong,” consider these scenarios.
(1) A serial killer plots the death of people in intricate detail and follows through with these murders.
(2) A driver is consciously obeying traffic laws when someone jumps out in front of them and is killed by the impact of the vehicle.
Both of these scenarios result in death. So are both the serial killer and the driver “wrong” and should be treated the same? OR IS THERE A THIRD OPTION?
If your eyes could only see black and white, you wouldn’t see the beautiful colors of the rainbow or the green grass or a sunset over the ocean or the multitude of colors in a calico cat’s fur. WHICH WOULD YOU PREFER?
Your way or my way may be a bit tougher for a lot of people, exacerbated by what I’ve seen as rudeness and bullying becoming “fashionable” in a lot of public situations. Many people seem to think if others don’t believe what they do or agree with them on everything, they should shout louder. How about simply saying, “I don’t agree with that, but did you notice how healthy the trees look this spring?”
Yep, simply change the topic of conversation so you can talk about something you do agree on. USE THE THIRD OPTION of allowing people their own opinions but don’t try to shove your beliefs down their throat. As long as their actions don’t take away your freedom to feel differently, what does it matter?
THE THIRD OPTION can be a brainstorming tool to come up with solutions. My son and I have used this in remodeling my house and yard. His perspective is mainly sturdy, functional construction. I like to add beautiful and sometimes whimsical touches. How do we reach THE THIRD OPTION of combining sturdy and beautiful?
—RESPECT the opinion and skills of the other person. When I want something built, I go to my son and ask him the best way to build it.
—Then I LISTEN and am OPEN to what he says.
—Next, I SUGGEST what I’d like to see to beautify a basic project and we tap into our CREATIVE minds and BRAINSTORM how to incorporate beauty with sturdy, functional construction.
One example: when we were remodeling the kitchen and shopping for tiles for the backsplash behind the sink, I found some beautiful small tiles that I loved, but they were quite expensive. (I’m a bargain hunter but sometimes I splurge when something really catches my fancy!) My son found some basic tiles and figured out how many would be needed to cover the backsplash at a reasonable price. However, I kept coming back to those small tiles. So I bought a few samples—they came in 3-inch by 10-inch sections—but couldn’t bring myself to spend a lot of money to cover the entire backsplash.
When we arrived home, I fussed and figured, then dug through my stacks of tile from previous projects. In one of those stacks was some beautiful tile that would coordinate with the eye-catching samples I had just purchased, which in turn looked great with the basic and reasonably priced tiles. So we ended up with an eye-catching focus behind the sink itself as well as an overall beautiful backsplash at a very reasonable price. (Did I mention the tiles from a previous project had been given to me, so didn’t cost anything?)
I can’t say this process always works. I’ve encountered people who become stubbornly entrenched in “my way is the only right way” and are shouting too loudly to listen to anything else. As much as possible, I don’t deal with those people. However, there are ways around them. A neighbor who is threatening and belligerent toward me sings a different tune to her apartment manager, with whom I am friends. So I don’t deal with this neighbor at all. If there is a problem, I go straight to the apartment manager. And, no, I don’t misuse this connection. I truly want to keep this friendship intact and care about what is going on in their lives—without being nosy.
In looking over these thoughts, it seems THE THIRD OPTION boils down to basic manners, humanity and caring about your family, neighbors, and others in your community in several simple steps:
—RESPECT the other person.
—LISTEN to others and be OPEN to what they say.
—SUGGEST ways to work together.
—Tap into CREATIVITY and BRAINSTORM sturdy, beautiful solutions.
Can the many complex issues of today that deserve discussion be resolved by using the simple steps of THE THIRD OPTION? Why don't we give it a try and see what we come up with?