Settling. Scores.

Browsing TEDtalks last night I came across a fascinating presentation by William Ury, a world-renowned conflict mediator and philanthropist, in which he opens with his favourite story from the Middle East of a man who left to his three sons seventeen camels...

To the first son he left half the camels, to the second son he left a third of the camels and to the youngest son he left a ninth of the camels. The three sons got into a negotiation, or argument as we would call it at home, since 17 doesn’t divide by two, it doesn’t divide by 3 and it doesn’t divide by 9. Tempers started to fray and finally in desperation, they went to consult a wise old woman.
The wise old woman thought about their problem for a long time and eventually she came back and said ”Well, I don’t know if I can help you, but if you want, you can have my camel.”
So now they had 18 camels.The first son took his half (half of 18 is 9), the second son took his third (a third of 18 is 6) and the youngest son took his ninth (a ninth of 18 is 2). When you add up the nine camels, the six camels and the other two, you get a total of seventeen camels. Which meant one camel was left over which they gave back to the wise old woman.

You can watch the rest of his talk in the video below or here, but I think you will agree that there is something to be learned here. When the people nearest you (colleagues, subordinates, upper management, family, buddies, even your kids) have an issue with each other that they cannot settle because of seemingly irreconcilable points of view: what do you bring to the table to resolve that?
Taking sides is human nature, but not a good strategy in settling differences. If you are going to take sides make it the outside, where the perspective is much clearer. Narrowing the issues to the common point of origin for all concerned is the key to unravelling any deadlock. Find that and use it to build a bridge to all sides. Not to get into the issue, but to show the way out. Perhaps even on a camel.

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