Orange Story Video

Transcript of Video:

So, I’m going to tell you the story of the orange. This is a very typical mediation training story, and if you go to any mediation training you’re going to hear it. But maybe you haven’t heard it before. So the story of the orange is:

I have two daughters and they get along very well. They’re 9 and 11 right now. But they also fight over things quite a bit, and as most kids do, when they both want the same thing at the same time there’s going to be a ruckus. One day I heard them fighting over an orange and so I came into the room and as usual I’m going to try to mediate between my kids and see if I can solve the problem.

They’re both pulling on the same orange. There’s one orange left in the house and they both want it and they’re both screaming, “give me the orange. Dad, decide who gets the orange. I need the orange.” What’s the most typical response? What’s the easiest thing to do as a parent?

You both want the orange? Let’s cut it in half and you both get half the orange. And what happens when you do that? Both kids scream louder and say, “I didn’t want ½ the orange. I wanted the whole orange. She shouldn’t have the orange.”

What should I have done? Well, what I should have done is to ask, “Why do you want the orange?” If I had asked them why they wanted the orange one of my daughters would have said, “well I’m baking a cake and I want to get the zest from the orange in order to put in the cake, the cake recipe calls for one full orange’s worth of zest, and with only half the orange I can’t have what I want.”

And the other daughter says, “well I wanted to have some fresh orange juice and half an orange’s worth of juice is not enough to be worthwhile. I need the whole orange.”

If I had asked why, I would’ve known that actually, they could both have 100% of what they want because one of them can take the peel. And one of them can take the pulp and make juice, and I could’ve given them both 100% of what they wanted.

So that’s the lesson of the orange story: that if you ask why and you understand why someone might want what they want, you might actually figure out that sometimes a conflict is not a conflict at all. It’s a failure to communicate and both people can actually get 100% of what they want if they’re asked the right question.

Now, obviously every problem can’t be solved with both people getting 100% of what they want. A lot of times we assume that we know what someone wants based on what they’re asking for, and we don’t ask why. The “why” and the “how” matter. So, the lesson of the orange story is always ask why, dig deeper and look for interests not just positions.

Now you know the orange story.