“Cross the Line”

A Breakthrough in Negotiation.

I have a class about alternative dispute resolution. On our first day of class the instructor told us that we would all be participating in an experiment. We all had to choose a partner and line up along the middle of the class. We all faced our partners and were told to imagine that there was an invisible line between us.

The exercise is to try to convince our partners to step over the line using whatever methods we could, while you are supposed to stay on your side no matter what.

After a few minutes, nobody had budged. Offers of coffee, lunch, and class notes didn’t convince anybody.

Yes, I wanted a coffee, but I wanted to win even more. So I didn’t cross the line. Nobody was making any progress.

During the standstill I got an idea. My objective is to get my partner on my side of the line. His objective is to get me on his side of the line. I had figured it out.

“What if I cross the line and go to your side, and you cross the line and come to my side at the same time?”

It was so simple, I was amazed it took so long to figure it out. Everybody else was bickering over their imaginary lines while my partner and I swapped spots and broke the game.

About two or three other people crossed the line. But in their scenario, there was a clear winner and loser. We were the only pair to come up with this solution. In the end we both conceded by crossing the line, but we also both came out on top because we both got what we wanted.

There you go. Think outside the box. Open your eyes. The answer is right in front of you.

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