Are your conversations Typical, or Courageous?

What is a Courageous Conversation?

We’re about to launch a series of workshops at Padraig that help our clients have Courageous Conversations. The idea is to help people have conversations that are open and honest, that solve disputes and challenges, that help us work better together, even when we have different perspectives or beliefs.

Today I share one of the concepts of those courageous conversations — focus on interests, not positions. In the classic book on negotiating “Getting to Yes,” the authors Fisher and Ury describe the difference in a position and an interest with two sisters fighting over the last orange. I’m going to use two chefs only because I found a photo to match!

So the story goes like this – two chefs are each preparing one course of a multi-course meal for a visiting dignitary.

Professional reputations are on the line and everything must be perfect. The chefs each reach for the last orange. The first chef says to the second chef “I need that orange for the duck I’m preparing as the main course!”

The second chef says “I need that orange for the amazing dessert I will be presenting!”

These positions are intractable – each chef needs the last orange.

In a “typical” conversation they might agree to cut the orange in half and each would be dissatisfied with the result – and likely resentful of the other. This could be the start of an ongoing grudge with the first chef presenting a less than perfect duck and the second presenting a less than perfect cake.

Now then, had the chefs had a courageous conversation they could have asked questions about their positions, to get to know each others’ interests.

They could have easily asked “why do you need the full orange for your recipe?”

Had they explored a question or two they might have learned that the first chef intended to juice the orange so that he could use the juice to make a wonderful sauce…and that the second chef needed a full orange worth of grated rind, to flavour her famous cake. In other words, they each needed the full orange but only for a key part of it — they could have both succeeded.

Their interests were different – one was interested in juice, one was interested in rind, but their positions – “I need the orange” were intractable. Moving beyond positions and attempting to define interests is a fundamental concept in many negotiations.

Asking questions to better understand the other person’s interests is a fundamental concept of coaching. We combine them in Courageous Conversations.

At Padraig we use engaging, curiosity based questions in all of our coached programs.

So our Coach’s Questions for you today — What conversations are you having that are stifled by positions where you might be able to look past positions and explore interests?  What would it take for you to try?

If you try a few courageous conversations, I would LOVE to hear how things went for you. Please share a few comments below.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply