Authors Sheila Heen, Bruce Patton, and Douglas Stone write in their book Difficult Conversations
that a technique called the “third story” can help you see conflicts more objectively.
In any conflict between two people, there are two sides of the story. But there is also a third story: this is the story that an impartial observer would tell.
For example, say you’re involved in some conflict, disagreement, or negotiation. Now imagine that there’s a complete recording of the situation.
What would an impartial observer listening to or watching that recording say was happening?
How much would they agree with your story?
How much would they agree with the other person’s story?
As the authors put it: “The key is learning to describe the gap – or difference – between your story and the other person’s story.
Yet the point of using the third story isn’t only to increase your empathy for others.
You also want to be wrong less often.
If you can articulate the other person’s point of view, even if it conflicts with your own view, then you’ll be less likely to make biased and incorrect judgements.