By Gerry Murray. 21-06-2020
(Scroll down for a laugh)

"Arguing over positions endangers an ongoing relationship.” ~ Roger Fisher & William Ury

There’s a wonderful story told about two sisters fighting over an orange. In the end, a parent intervenes, a compromise is reached and the orange is cut in half. 

Seemed like a fair way to resolve the matter. However, neither sister was happy with the result! 

This past week I’ve been teaching part 1 of a Negotiation Skills course to officials at the EU. You may be relieved to learn that these officials are not involved in any high stakes trade deals, at least not for now!

Nevertheless, negotiations and negotiating are activities that we all engage in every day. What to have for dinner, where to go on vacation, etc… right up to contracts if you work in business. 

They are also flavour of the month in the political world right now. And I must say that, despite all the research into how to conduct effective negotiations, we don’t see so many examples of Best Practice. 

Wouldn’t it be useful to know how to negotiate effectively? The principles of effective negotiation are also the foundation for resolving conflicts. 

What’s your favourite position? 

Getting back to my opening question, therein lies the problem. We see and hear lots of talk about positions. This emphasis leads to the emergence of all sorts of tactics including: threats, bullying, leaking information, posturing, one-upmanship, etc… In short, many standoffs and very little progress! 

The net outcomes of most positional bargaining are Win-Lose, Lose-Win, or Lose-Lose. Even in compromise, there are few winners. Yes, half an orange is better than no orange but not if you wanted the whole orange. 

Win-Win Outcomes

Achieving a win-win outcome has numerous benefits including preserving the relationships, feeling good, having the positive energy to implement an agreement, etc… In short, all these factors move you forward.

Uncovering Interests

Your chances of achieving a win-win outcome are improved when you change your focus from holding a position to uncovering underlying interests. This essentially means understanding why someone is taking a position. It means uncovering what is important to them and why that particular thing is important. It opens up the possibility of moving beyond my-position-versus-your-position to exploring options that can satisfy both our needs. 

Back to the orange

One of the sisters wanted the orange to make a juice. The other wanted the rind to bake a cake. They could’ve both had their interests met and achieved a win-win if they’d explored the underlying reasons why they both wanted the orange. Instead, they both had to settle for half an orange. 

I wonder how many oranges will be cut in half this week…



What do you call fake oranges?
Pulp Fiction

What do you call a type of orange that served in the military?
A navel officer

I’m not having much luck with jobs lately.
I couldn’t concentrate in the orange juice factory; wasn’t suited to be a tailor; the muffler factory was just exhausting; couldn’t cut it as a barber; didn’t have the patience to be a doctor; didn’t fit in the shoe factory; pool maintenance was too draining and I just couldn’t see any future as a historian.

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