The importance of communication: a story on effective negotiation

Effective negotiation

Earlier this month, Ryosuke and I sat in on a business class at Ashesi University (one of the only liberal arts universities in Africa).

We’ve been doing this a lot recently, which has made both of us realize how much we miss being in school.

Getting a Masters (or PhD) has always been in my life plan, perhaps starting 5-10 years down the road, and Ryosuke has never been interested in higher education… but both of us are a little drunk on knowledge right now. We’ve done a lot of talking (and dreaming) of what it would be like to start looking at Masters programs for both of us in Japan.

Anyway, moving on.

The theme of the class we sat in on was “negotiation.”

And at the end of the class, the professor told a story:

Two boys came across an orange one day. Both of them wanted the orange and argued bitterly over who would get it.

“I saw it first!” One of them argued.

“I am your elder, you should respect me!” Countered the other.

After a couple rounds, they decided to split the orange down the middle. Satisfied with the outcome, each took their half and waked away.

The first boy ate his half of the orange basking in the cool shade of a nearby tree. When he finished, he tossed the peel near the roots and returned home. 

The second boy took his half of the orange to his home on the other side of town and gave it to his mother. She squeezed out a bit of the pulp and grated the peel for an orange pastry they were making for dinner. 

With no use for the rest of the fleshy orange, she fed it to their goat. 

This is the purpose of negotiation. Or effective negotiation, I should say. Because while both boys technically split the orange fairly, each of them could have gotten more of what they really wanted if they had negotiated effectively. One boy could have walked away with no peel and most of the inside of the inside of the delicious, fleshy orange; the other could have walked away with all the peel and a sliver of the orange for the cake.

Real life is complicated. The “just split it in half” solution is rarely the best outcome for an splitting resources or responsibilities. 

Basically, when you’re dealing with another person, with unknown needs, resources, skills, and goals, make sure you figure out what their priorities are before making a deal.


About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

21 Comments on The importance of communication: a story on effective negotiation

  1. This is an important lesson. Negotiations are about reading other people, identifying their needs respective to yours, and then finding a compromise. Being stubborn during negotiations might not result in the best solution for all parties.

    You mentioned going on to get your Master’s, which is common in my field (I have a Master’s in the US), but I feel like in Japan it’s primarily for specialists, like engineers or people who want to remain in academia. I suppose since neither of you are following the traditional job route it is different, but I would be interested in a post about the pros and cons of pursuing a Master’s in Japan ^^

  2. Mykael noctis // 16 April, 2016 at 11:01 pm //

    Hope both of you are fine . give us just quick news for telling us everyrhing is allright .

  3. Earthquake are you guy ok

  4. Grace is everyone ok? We are praying for your husband’s family and all the people in Japan.

  5. Honestly, when I began reading the little story shared by that professor, I thought I actually knew it or that I, at least, know how it would end. But it proved to be a whole different story from the one I knew. Thanks for sharing it! It was surely a very powerful example of effective negotiation.

    As for the Master’s program… if you feel like doing it, go for it!
    I’m currently an MA student, and gaah, there are so many things to be done, even if the schedule seems to be pretty good, in the sense that there aren’t many classes to attend/day… but the assignments are what take most time. ><
    Also, what would be the field you'd like to study (in the MA, I mean)? :D

  6. As I am a bit slow I had to read the story twice haha

  7. Wening Sekar // 12 April, 2016 at 8:04 am //

    This kind of effective negotiation needs caring and well in listening other people needs. But what I see in “just split in half” happened because no caring and no well skill in listening, maybe we could call it “selfish”(?)
    I don’t know. But ya something like for what I see from my society.
    Thanks for reading this little opinion. Sorry for the bad grammar.
    Love from Indonesia ^^

  8. Go for it, Grace, , as you already aware that great communication is the most important skill in a reciprocal relationship. I like the story of the orange, and part where one boy walked away with no peel and the inside of the fleshy part of the orange and the other boy walk away with the peel and sliver of orange for cake. In real life, give and take and hard work to achieve your goal is the basis of most relationship. I too, am studying and my husband is very much like Ryosuke, he is very happy with our life. and still have his independence and humour that kept us together for nearly 23 years of married bliss with children. Also we are TOTAL OPPOSITES, that brings the compromising part and lots of disagreement, and dont let it get out of hand…. Not everyone is going to agree, but I dont care, (its taken me long time to figure that one out. Because I dont want to upset anyone like our friends and family, why we want to do different things in the next stage of our life. We are quiet people, and me studying again, caused a lot of emotion to surface among my relationships and children. Its because, I have already studied at Uni, and moved on…At this stage of life, everyone needs changes in their life. So go for it. Cheers

  9. goldomenso // 12 April, 2016 at 2:58 am //

    Grace, I’m puzzled about your desire to obtain a masters or a PHD. Most people go to college to become an employee. You already are a freelancer and have also said you don’t like working for others. What would the extra diploma do for you? Do you really need it? Like you said, Ryosuke doesn’t see the need.

    I don’t mean to sound critical, but after following your blog for quite a while, your wanting to get another college degree does confuse me.

    In any case, keep sharing your very entertaining blog with all of us and I wish you and Ryosuke the best in life.

    • That totally makes sense – I want the degree because there’s a specific career I would really LOVE to have in the future (it’s been a dream since middle school / high school) but having at least a Masters is a requirement for getting hired to do that thing. And it’s a full-time thing, so I couldn’t do it alongside what I’m already doing.

      The general plan is to keep doing the blogging/comics/YouTube thing until it stops becoming relevant or I no longer am passionate about it, and then cutting back to part-time while I get another degree.

      • Wesley91 // 15 April, 2016 at 2:09 am //

        I have been dreading going back to get a masters for the last two years! I just cannot imagine being in that student mentality again, fearing the deadlines and getting scored on the quality of work done made my stomach drop every day I walked into class. However, I did love learning with all my heart. Currently, I am studying the death of the artistic middle class through the lens of a Yale educated journalist. Normally I try to craft an odd sort of syllabus for myself to follow on any given topic (usually popular philosophy or anything Alain deBotton) and study to my hearts content. I too need to get back into formal education because this sociology degree isn’t doing much for my resume in the working world. Haha

  10. Negotiating skills are SO important in life, from huge business deals, all the way down to dealing fairly with kids. I think a lot of times, we settle for the most expedient choice to solve a problem, instead of really sitting with it, and coming to the best solution.

    BTW, SO glad you guys are wanting to learn more!! I’m quite sad with the way the American education system is headed, feels way more like indoctrination than higher education. I am going into education, so I hope to change that in some way shape or form. Stay self-educated, and read read read!! It would also be interesting to know your take on Japanese education…

    Thanks for the post Grace!

  11. S. J. Pajonas (spajonas) // 11 April, 2016 at 9:41 pm //

    What a great story! I love how easily it illustrates the point. :)

  12. What a great life lesson! Communication is always the solution to most problems.
    I’ve spent the last two years considering doing a Masters but they’re just way too expensive, and I wouldn’t even know what I would like to do it in: art? translation? teaching? Maybe one year I’ll decide and have the means to do one.

    However, if you’re interested in following some free short courses online, you can do that in Future Learn! At the moment I’m doing a fiction writing short course and am loving it!

  13. Great point. 50/50 may look nice mathematically, but it is not always the best answer, especially in a world with a lot of complexity. Guess that’s why we call it “negotiating” rather than “dividing”. Thanks for sharing the lesson. :)

  14. Eric Janson // 11 April, 2016 at 2:44 pm //

    Nice example! Nr. 1 in negatiations is understanding the wants and needs (which might be different) of the other party. Very often non- monetary concessions / inclusions an make all the difference in the outcome. In the case of your story, the peel was the “non- monetary” part of the deal which could have maximized the win for both sides.

  15. Excellent post as usual. I agree with the professor that life is too complicated for a 50-50 solution.

  16. Indeed and good point made. I love being in university but I’m so excited for the next part of my adventure to begin. After reading your post I realize I’ll probably miss it fairly soon. xD

  17. Anonymous // 11 April, 2016 at 10:49 am //

    this is a nice lesson i understood sloo~~~wly during my work, figuring out each others’ need is really important, great example

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