I know that my colleagues Joel and Hwee Hwee have just edited a new book on An Asian Perspective on Mediation (and, for goodness’ sake, I have a couple of chapters in that book), but there’s something that still puzzles us. Here’s the scenario:
- it’s a fruit market here in Singapore, with mountains of fresh fruit on sale at pretty good prices – better than the supermarket anyway;
- the fruit – let’s say, lychee and rambutan – are advertised at the same price per kilo
- we ask for a mix of around a half kilo of each but the stall holder won’t do it – even though the fruit is piled side by side, the price is the same;
- we ask why, and he just says he cannot;
- so we ask if he’ll just grab a random kilo worth of fruit from the adjoining lychee and rambutan piles, but he won’t do it;
- so we walk away; a perfect lose-lose negotiation.
This is akin to the questions raised in the occasional articles in the Negotiation Journal along the “what would you do if . .. ?” style.
- how are we to interpret the preference not to make a sale over the – apparently – easy task of bagging fruit on the same stall tray?
- how are we to indicate our preference for a lesser amount of each fruit (it deteriorates rapidly in the tropics)?
This translates into other spheres of negotiation – including a landlord’s preference to leave a house or apartment empty rather than taking the reduced rent that actually reflect current market value for rents.