Mediation and the Tale of the Single Lemon

{2.48 minutes to read}

In my last blog article, I described my frustration with lawyers and other professionals who undervalue the skills and experience that go into making a good mediator. As I continued to contemplate this subject, I remembered an excellent “story” I had been told early in my mediation training days to illustrate one of the key principles of mediation.

I’ve dubbed the story, “The Tale of the Single Lemon,” although I’ve heard it told with an orange or other fruit as the main focus. Of course, it doesn’t really matter what type of edible it is. So let’s just get to the tale itself and its possible outcomes.

The Tale of the Single Lemon

There are two chefs and only a single lemon available. Each claims that the lemon is an essential ingredient for his recipe, and each is adamant that he alone has to have the entire lemon for his dish.

This is the typical, non-negotiable bargaining mentality in which one person will clearly be the winner and the other the loser.

After arguing for some time, both chefs finally decide to compromise and split the lemon right down the middle so that each will receive half of it.

Sounds better, you say. But is that really the case? (Hint: See the paragraphs below.)

Instead of being stuck in their separate positions in which each chef believes he must have the entire lemon for his own recipe, someone (you guessed it – a mediator) helps them explore the issue by asking each chef why he “needs” the lemon. One chef states he needs the juice of the entire lemon for a fish recipe he is making, and the other indicates he needs the rind of the entire lemon for a cake he is baking.

Now that each chef understands the needs of the other, they can begin to discuss and explore how BOTH OF THEIR NEEDS CAN BE MET. And that’s how they come up with the decision to peel the lemon first and give the rind to one and the juicy insides to the other.

As you see, now there is no longer a winner or a loser. Instead, both of them win!

Pretty neat, huh? That’s just one example of some of the good work we mediators do. Stay tuned for more!

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One response on “Mediation and the Tale of the Single Lemon

  1. Lauren Prince

    Asking the right questions and avoiding assumptions are the hallmarks of effective communication. Your lemon story is perfect for helping to explain what mediators can do to help solve disagreements. Kudos.

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