Home > Ideas > 50:50 may not be a fair share!

50:50 may not be a fair share!


Two girls are fighting over an orange – the older one says she needs to get it because she is senior and the little one wants it because she had seen it first. Dad enters the kitchen seeing this bitter struggle in progress and intervenes. He decides to play arbiter and calls the two warring sides to the table for a dialogue – asks what is the problem? Both sisters reiterate their positions and like a good referee dad decides to split the orange into two equal halves – one for each of his daughters. Thinking he has solved a major crisis dad gets up to leave the room with a smug smile on his face. Child’s play!

Problem solved? No way! Both sisters explode and this time the ire is directed at their dad.

Well, I have twisted a case regularly used in Negotiation Skills programs to bring out the drama – but such scenes are typical when groups are negotiating for their “fair” share. Most times half and half won’t get you to an amicable solution. To know that you need to understand the situation.

–          What is the little one wasn’t that hungry and she just wanted to hold the orange?

–          What if the older one just wanted the skin to add to the marmalade recipe she had in mind?

Dad would have been able to help his kids reach an amicable solution is he had studied the problem in its entirety.

Often in Negotiations each side is so busy trying to win the maximum out of the deal that they end up losing a lot – that is because they fail to understand the other side’s expectations.

The above example was quoted in a Negotiation Skills workshop I attended earlier in the day. The expert conducting the session was Prof. Ofer Sharone of the MIT Sloan School and he was brought to Cochin by the local chapter of IIPM.

Another interesting example quoted by Professor Sharone was from the 1912 Presidential Elections in USA. Teddy Roosevelt’s Campaign team had created a poster on the Bull Moose Party (Roosevelt’s Progressive Party had that nickname) theme – around 3 million copies were printed for distribution across the United States. Before the poster was released to the public some smart guy discovered that the picture used on the poster was under copyright and they had not bought the right to use it. It was felt that the photographer could sue them for up to USD 1.oo per poster and that would cost them USD 3 million.

Creating a new poster was out of question – precious time would be wasted. It needed some out-of-the-box thinking – something had to be done quickly to maintain the momentum of the campaign; the picture they had used was just right to send across the planned message, but they didn’t want to be sued for copyright violation.

The Campaign Manager came up with a brilliant idea – he called the photographer and asked: “How much are you willing to pay to have your photograph used in the Presidential campaign?”

The photographer, totally unaware of the situation on the other side, said – “I can’t afford more than 2000 dollars!”

Now, wasn’t that brilliant thinking – how a crisis was averted and the role was reversed! From fire-fighting it had turned into a brilliant coup. The photographer was funding them for the use his own photo instead of getting paid for it. But obviously the association with the campaign would have given him immense mileage.

Success in negotiation comes from understanding the situation well and by making smart use of the variables available.

Even 90:10 could be a fair deal!

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  1. Jamy
    May 9, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    Good one Jay!

    • JayadevM
      May 9, 2012 at 9:28 pm

      🙂 Thank you, Jamy!

  2. saaliha iqbal
    May 10, 2012 at 4:14 am

    Now I’ll think twice before i’m gonna share an orange between my kids:)…Jokes apart- it is too good that I’m taking the privilege to share it in my family group in FB…

    • JayadevM
      May 10, 2012 at 4:29 am

      Ha! Ha!

      Saaliha, that’s true. We adults take too much for granted because we think we know all the answers.

      Do feel free to share the link … with a kind word from your side. 🙂

      Thank you for reading.

  3. NIPIN
    May 10, 2012 at 5:42 am

    Nicely said..! 🙂

  4. Vijay Singh
    May 10, 2012 at 6:00 am

    Good One !!! Nice to read a good article in the morning !!!

    Every client is having some preference in terms of services, security, support etc. All the client will not go for lowest pricing, but this is General Perception. So it’s always good to understand the customer in the very sight that what exactly they are looking for & churn the situation accordingly will be the smart play.

    • JayadevM
      May 10, 2012 at 6:25 am

      Nice derivation,Vijay!

  5. May 10, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    thanks JM, brilliant article…few things i’ve learnt from my years being a negotiator: Be thoroughly prepared, know your facts, the history and the issues. A winning negotiation is a brilliant play. You are the director and make sure you take the lead when you can. Have a list of gives and takes. Focus on getting your most important and be prepared to forgo your least. Create leverage always. Make the losing side feel that they’ve won by giving you want you won, create that win win perspective. Create a list of choices and have your best position as your opponents most favored option. Always know when to shut up and walk away. Don’t quarrel, when in impasse politely postpone or decline. Always leave the door open to renegotiate when you don’t get the best deal. When forced to accept a bad deal, make sure you have a exit planned and make sure its in the equation. Use humor and be cheerful. Kill with a smile. When negotiating as a team, make sure all are on the same page. If you decide to play good cop – badcop make sure you and your team can address surprises. Wear comfortable shoes and make sure you’ve to have had a good breakfast. Prepare and rehearse….and rehearse again…be confident and don’t oggle at the woman on the other side… 🙂

    • JayadevM
      May 10, 2012 at 6:31 pm

      Hi Prem

      That is a brilliant check-list – Yes, I like the emphasis you laid on Win-Win; that is important for long-term relationships (business or otherwise).

      Get your bits and be ready to part with some too.

      Lot of useful stuff in there. Thank you!

  6. May 11, 2012 at 5:28 am

    Reminds me of an anecdote in Reader’s Digest sometime back – how to divide a piece of chocolate cake or something like that between two kids – ask one to cut it and the other one to decide which piece is hers 😀

    • JayadevM
      May 11, 2012 at 5:38 am


      That’s a smart way of forcing the decision on the other party. 🙂

  7. ram..
    May 14, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Jaidev,very valubale case studies on Negoitiation skills.Many a time we are getting challenged my the size of the problem that we dont get the awareness of the problem in all dimensions and we tend to overlook the best or workable option.

    • JayadevM
      May 14, 2012 at 9:46 am

      That’s right, Ram … we often miss the wood for the trees!

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