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Reciprocity, Respect, Results

June 13, 2011

Reciprocity can be a key ingredient in a successful negotiation/mediation.  The idea is simple: one does something for the other, the latter feels compelled to do something for the former.  Mediators talk about reciprocity all the time. It is at the heart of the give and take of negotiation. I make a concession for you, you make one for me.  Soon, there is little between the negotiating parties, and they come to terms.

One obstacle to beneficial reciprocity is anger.  So many disputants come to the mediation table terribly angry at the other.  Their words are poisonous and they are bound up in a cycle of mutual disrespect.

But respect can create beneficial reciprocity and can be generated by the mediator.  The mediator may create a roomful of respect simply by saying hello pleasantly, by making sure that each person is introduced to the other, by conducting him- or herself in a friendly and sometimes deferential way, by standing when someone enters or leaves the room, by providing refreshments and/or lunch, by acknowledging cross-cultural differences, even by asking permission to take off one’s suit jacket before doing so.

People like social pleasantries.  As a result they begin to mirror such conduct.  They rise to the occasion.  The door opens then for them to consider the other disputant in a new light.  They begin to listen, then to understand.  They start to cooperate, to think of creative ways to solve their problems, and they find peace (well, not always).

If there is respect, then there can be reciprocity.  With reciprocity, there can be good results for all.

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From → Mediation

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