What The Heck is a Third Space?

3698 What The Heck Is A Third Space

​I will preface this article with two points:

  1. I am not a psychologist – I run a recruitment consultancy.

  2. I am an absolute cynic when it comes to presentations and books regarding “how to change your mind set to improve your life”.

In August of last year, I saw a chap by the name of Dr. Adam Fraser present at a conference I was attending. Despite my initial scepticism, I was so inspired by what he said that I not only bought his book, but also a record player to set up in my office (I’ll come back to that later).

The presentation (and book) I refer to, what Fraser calls, the Third Space. He describes life as a series of different roles, or “spaces”. For example, I play the role of Recruitment Consultant, Manager and Husband on a daily basis. Each space carries with it different environments, different responsibilities and different tasks.

Fraser goes on to describe the window in which we transition between each space (the first and second space) as the “third space” and it is what we do in this space that defines how well we operate in the second space. The challenge is what you do in that third space so as to show up with the right mindset for your next space or role.

Spaces? Sounds like psychological jibba jabba, I know. But let me give you an example of what I mean.

I arrive to work to find that a contract worker has not shown to up to their assignment and is not contactable. My client is understandably furious. After spending 2 hours to eventually find a suitable replacement, I too am furious. This is my first space.

I move straight from that task into an employee annual review (my second space). My employee has exceeded the majority of expectations that I set her. She deserves a detailed review, acknowledgement of her performance and praise for her continued hard work and commitment to the business. I am, however, still fuming from the two hours that I just wasted. So instead of reviewing her performance and celebrating her success, I skim over details and rush through the review so that I can get back to my desk and catch up on the two hours of work I lost this morning.

Fraser makes the point that you need to “show up” to each space with the right emotions, thoughts and behaviour (posture, presence, energy levels, facial expressions, choice of words, tone of voice) to effectively complete you’re the responsibilities of that space.

In the above example, I carried my emotions (frustration, anger) from my morning with me rather than displaying more appropriate emotions, such as appreciation and gratitude.

They say that a great leader is one who inspires. I can tell you that, in the above example, I was anything but inspirational. Did I have control over my contractor not turning up for work? No. But I did have control to shut down my reaction to this news before stepping into my staff member’s performance review.

Another example referenced by Fraser is the transition between your “work” space and “home” space. This is something that I can certainly relate to – as I write this newsletter article while on holiday with my wife…

During the day, the success of my role requires decisive behaviour and efficient (direct and fast) conversations. At night time, this behaviour doesn’t fly so well with my wife. I struggled to switch off from effective work mode and into good husband mode.

This is where the record player comes in. In September last year, I bought and set up a record player in my office. At 6pm every day, I stop work, listen to a side of a record (embarrassingly, it seems like “easy listening” is my genre of choice) and decompress from the day. By the time I get home, I’m in a more relaxed state of mind and happy to have a “less efficient” conversations with my wife.

I appreciate this article has turned into more of a book summary than an HR article, but I will leave with this to ponder…

We all work in a role that requires us to move from task to task, meeting to meeting, from “space” to “space”. But how effectively are we transitioning between them? Are you carrying over frustration from a tough meeting into one that should be a celebratory one? Are you talking to your wife like she is an employee? Make sure you use the gap between spaces (albeit a short one) to transition your state of mind to one that is appropriate to your next responsibility.

For me, a record player works – I find it relaxing. Whatever it is, do something within the transition windows between each space to ensure that you arrive at your next task with the right emotions, energy and behaviour to be most successful in performing that task.

For more information on The Third Space, go to www.thethirdspace.com.au. If I have sparked your interest, I highly recommend you read the book – it explains the concept much better than I do.

– Matt Sampson