The Orange Story Expanded

Silke Hansen

CRS Mediator, Denver Office

[Full Interview]

One of my favorite examples to give parties -- and again, if I do mediation training, I often use this one -- is the one with the girls fighting over the orange: One wants the rind for the cake, the other wants the juice to drink, so it looks like neither one can get the whole orange. Many times you'll hear that example stop there, though. There's more: The girl who got the rind -- if she hadn't gotten the rind, maybe she could have used vanilla flavor or almond flavor or maple flavor. The point is that she didn't actually need the orange; she just needed flavoring. And likewise, the girl who got the juice -- if she didn't get the juice, she could have had milk or apple juice or water or coffee-- in my case beer -- but she was really just looking for a beverage. So they fought over the orange, but the orange wasn't necessarily what would best meet their respective needs. They just saw it that way.

Part of my job, then, is to get the girls to see that the orange is not necessarily the objective; rather, I need to get one girl to recognize that she is looking for flavoring and then investigate all of the various ways that she might obtain that. Similarly, I need to get the other girl to realize that she's really looking for a beverage and explore the possibilities of obtaining that. Eventually, you may get to the point where the orange itself isn't wanted by either of them anymore, but their interests and their needs have been met, and I think that's what differentiates good mediators from outstanding mediators, if you will. It's that ability to help replace the rind with another flavoring and the juice with another beverage, because once the parties can do that, their options are vastly multiplied, because they don't even need the orange anymore. And they pay me to do this -- I love this job. I sort of get on my little soap box -- and I apologize when I do that -- but it really is exciting when people in conflict begin to see that there are ways of dealing with their problems that they haven't even explored before. It's pretty exciting.