Negotiation and Peace


I hope you all are doing well. This week I’ll be sharing something very simple yet profound; something I feel at one point in time in our lives we’ve all had to deal with. However, before we get into it, please remember to stay hydrated lol. The heatwave has been intense of late. Drink lots and lots of water.

Today’s topic is on negotiation. Many people see the word negotiation from different perspectives. A salesman might see it from the perspective of profit, a lawyer from the perspective of saving a client, a Father from the perspective of passing across life lessons, etc. Irrespective of how we see the art of negotiation, we all would agree that any negotiation that doesn’t result in a win-win scenario isn’t truly a negotiation perse. In some cases, during a negotiation, one party may decide to be the “bigger person” and forgo some of their rights and privileges just for peace to reign. They see that trying to achieve a true win-win isn’t feasible because the other party is intransigent.

It is not every day that we run into such people of bigger hearts, who value relationships and their peace of mind more than pettiness. The majority tends to lean towards the mentality of “it’s my way or no way”. A brief example of someone giving up their right in a negotiation in order to save something of greater value for themselves. Once while traveling across some country borders, my Dad and I ran into some very difficult Border patrol guy. There were some fees required to stamp our passport but for some reason (which I feel was just to rip us off), this agent had refused to comply with the standard rates and demanded more money. My dad had shown his old passport to justify that he was a frequent traveler and that his new passport was not an indication of first time traveling.

The border agent was adamant even though the facts were right before his eyes. We had two options that we could control; one was to pay him the extra fee and be on our way, and the other was to stay put and refuse to pay until a superior officer came and hopefully allowed us to pass through. We had things to do while this border agent was at his office and had all the time to waste ours. My dad paid and we left. I was furious and asked him why he complied, I was a teenager when this happened. My sense of “life” was very limited as compared to now. My father looked at me said, “whenever you are dealing with someone who has nothing to lose in a situation that you have a lot to lose, just learn to be flexible”.

We were the travelers, with a vehicle waiting on us on the other side of the border, we didn’t have much time to waste. The border agent had nothing to lose. To be honest I have been in situations in my life where I have had to sacrifice a lot of things because I can see the bigger picture which the other party couldn’t. I have against my “natural course of action” had to swallow a lose-win situation because I knew that in the long run, I had a lot more at stake and my peace of mind was important.

There is another story that has been making rounds on the internet for a while and I should share it to show the power of negotiation when the real objective is to find peace.

A father left 17 Camels as an asset for his three Sons. When the Father passed away, his sons opened up the will. The will of the Father stated that the eldest son should get half of 17 Camels, the middle Son should be given 1/3rd of 17 Camels, youngest Son should be given 1/9th of the 17 Camels, as it is not possible to divide 17 into half or 17 by 3 or 17 by 9, the sons started to fight with each other.

So, they decided to go to a wise man.

The wise man listened patiently about the Will. The wise man, after giving this thought, brought one camel of his own and added the same to 17. That increased the total to 18 camels. Now, he started reading the deceased father’s will.

Half of 18 = 9. So he gave 9 camels to the eldest son.
1/3rd of 18 = 6. So he gave 6 camels to the middle son

1/9th of 18 = 2. So he gave 2 camels to the youngest son.
Now add this up: 9 + 6 + 2 = 17 & This leaves 1 camel, which the wise man took back.

MORAL: The attitude of negotiation and problem solving is to find the 18th camel i.e. the common ground. Once a person is able to find the common ground, the issue is resolved. It is difficult at times. However, to reach a solution, the first step is to believe that there is a solution. If we think that there is no solution, we won’t be able to reach any!

One major reason why people cannot reach common ground is that everyone is busy trying to see how they can get as much as possible for themselves. In one of Eli Broad‘s book, he shows us how he negotiates for deals which may seem unreasonable. His approach is to try as much as possible to let the other party see the value his negotiation will bring them. In theory, I can cite may more authors who have given a decent way to make this happen, but in practice, our false ego won’t let us achieve this.

Some of you reading might say but there are times when we face a party who is so inconsiderate that it is almost impossible to find common ground. As true as this might sound, it is almost futile to try to force someone to accept our stance. It is a waste of time and eventually, it only breeds bad feelings and resentment.

As we all try to truly understand the deeper tenets of finding common ground in negotiation, I hope we take a minute to pause and reflect on what the bigger picture is we are trying to achieve. (I never said it was easy 🙂 )

Till next week, read, share and follow for more.

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