There must be something more to this orange. How can two grown adults be fighting over just an orange? No amount of persuasion could settle these two people. They argue, bicker, and are on the verge of falling out as friends and business partners, as each argues to the death for their solution to their big problem: How to share the orange.
Eventually, their mutually trusted friend showed up at the scene, and there seems to be hope for a resolution. Mr. Solomon listens patiently to the partners argue for their solutions. After a moment of reflection, Solomon raises his hand and says, 'My friends, just calm down. The solution is simple: split the orange in half.' The two friends jump up, screaming, 'Never! That's not what I want!'
After table-banging threats to split their partnership and end their childhood friendship, the two partners, as a last-ditch effort, decide to seek one more chance at settlement before parting ways. They will present their problem to the most experienced and respected businessman in their town, Shiaman.
Shiaman listens patiently to the wild exclamations spewing from both partners, then calmly asks Partner Two to leave his office so he can talk freely with Partner One. When alone with the first partner, Shiaman asks him, 'What exactly do you want with the orange?' Partner One answers and then leaves the room. Shiaman brings in Partner Two to be seated alone before him and asks him the same question, 'What exactly do you want with the orange?' Partner One re-enters the office, and both partners sit hopefully before the assured Shiaman.
The aged businessman stares firmly at them and says, 'In a negotiation, the first premise is that each person should get what they want. Never start a negotiation with a compromise, doing the easy thing that you have always done. Instead, step back and ask yourself: "What exactly do I need?" After listening to you, I understand that you both can have exactly what you need.' As Shiaman leans back, the two friends lean forward.
Shiaman continues, 'Partner One, you can have all the skin of the orange to make herbal concoctions for your sick daughter, while you, Partner Two, can have all the liquid and pulp of the orange to make your juice.'
Both partners leap up and shake hands. They exit beaming, arm in arm, their business and personal relationship to continue productively for many years to come.
End of the story.
Not all conflicts, of course, can be resolved so easily, but the principles in this story are very instructive on how to try to resolve a conflict during a negotiation. So, let me state explicitly the lessons I learned from this story of the orange:
- Never start a negotiation by arguing about solutions, and not like Solomon, by compromising, where you seek a middle ground by giving up something.
- Instead, step back and consider your needs, not your solutions. This change in thinking and focus will lessen conflicts over clashing solutions and open more options for you to consider, thereby increasing the odds of you getting what you need.
- As with everything in life, always know specifically what you want and communicate that benevolently but confidently. You may just get it.
- Never fight against what you want, but fight for it.
- Think win-win; it works."