Blog Avoiding Pitfal

Want to be a better negotiator? Avoid this common pitfall.

A few years ago while visiting El Salvador, I went to a tiny village and had an enlightening reunion with Carlos and his brother Albino. They were considered the wise-men of the village, even though there were a lot of elders in the village. These two had it all; the nicest home in the village, horses, cows and the most thriving farm and loving families.

After the passing of their father, everyone in the village was eager to see how the next family feud would unfold in dividing the family farm saga that was all too common among the villagers.

If you are like most people, you look at your resources as a pie to be divided. And of course, if you get more, I get less or vice versa, the “zero-sum” mentality. So naturally the next issues are what is a fair division and how to divide it precisely.

In Enlightened Negotiation, we go beyond being equitable and fair and look at the core of your interactions, specifically, how you see the world or life in general. This is the essence of the Law of Intention, one of the 8 laws of Enlightened Negotiation. Accordingly, we look at the pie as infinite possibilities; or, a new blank slate to maximize both side’s share.

So before jumping to the conclusion of how they should divide the farm, Carlos told me that they remembered our discussion about negotiation they had with me few years back. They both decided to a take a week and to walk the land side by side and discuss all the possibilities before making any decision.

As a result, the two brothers agreed to both use the whole farm at the same time! Carlos planting corn and Albino soybeans. They were unaware that in the modern agriculture this is called Intercropping. It is nature’s way of demonstrating collaboration and prosperity mentality. Which, according to Canadian researchers, provides 38 percent more yield with half of the cost of operation.

There are two common reasons why most negotiations fail, and zero-sum assumption is one of them. In order for me to win, you have to lose. That’s rarely true. There are almost always opportunities for co-creation and collaboration that would benefit both parties if we simply enlarge the scope of myopic vision and open ourselves to new possibilities.

The second reason is that parties come to the table with fixed positions. For instance, they come with a specific salary (though the benefit package might be worth even more); a specific figure per month for child support, (though contributions to the child’s college fund ought to be considered). Here again, the solution is simply to enlarge and deepen our field of view: what’s being overlooked, what’s possible, what else would be in line with my needs and goals?

Zero-sum fallacy represents a scarcity paradigm, a model of reality based on the assumptions that resources are always finite and possibilities always restricted, a way of looking at the world through a very narrow aperture. As we evolve our consciousness toward Enlightened Negotiation we should already be perceiving the world, instead, as an open field of inexhaustible possibilities.