Play a "Third Side Role"

Heidi Burgess
Guy M. Burgess

March, 2107

Everyone can help prevent conflicts and help make existing ones more constructive. Find out how by learning about William Ury's ten "third-side roles."

Other things you can do to help.

In 2000, William Ury published a book entitled The Third Side. He created a companion website ( and graciously allowed us to republish much of that website's material here on Beyond Intractability.  As Ury describes in his BI essay on The Third Side: "The Third Side is the community -- us -- in action protecting our most precious interests in safety and well-being. It suggests 10 practical roles any of us can play on a daily basis to stop destructive fighting in our families, at work, in our schools, and in the world. Each of our individual actions is like a single spider web, fragile perhaps, but, when united with others, capable of halting the lion of war. Although the Third Side is in its infancy in our modern-day societies, it has been used effectively by simpler cultures for millennia to reduce violence and promote dialogue.

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The third side, he explains is made up of "insiders" -- friends, family, even the disputants themselves, and outsiders (neighbors, neutrals, bystanders).  They play any one of ten different roles--three designed to prevent conflicts from erupting the in the first place, four to help resolve them once they have occurred, and three to help contain them from causing excessive harm if resolution fails.

The following diagram quickly summarizes what each of these ten roles is.

The next ten "Things YOU Can Do" Blog posts describe each of these roles--and how YOU can do that individually.


For more information about these ideas see:

Question for You:  

Have you ever played a third side role in a conflict?  What did you do?  How?  How did it work out?  (Answer in an email and we'll post it here!)