Michael Boulet, Shook, Wickham, Bishop & Field

Michael Boulet, CR Lawyers

The sensei handed a foam bat to one of the more athletic students and invited him to “take my head off” with it. The student took a huge swing, but instead of blocking, the sensei slid off the line just a bit, moved his hands with the bat and guided it past his bodyadding his own power and directing it away. The bat flew out of the student’s hand and across the room, and his momentum made him stumble forward. 

This is what we refer to as “blending”.  By matching the student’s momentum, and moving with it rather than against it, the sensei was able to add to his momentum and redirect it. The bat went harmlessly past, and the student left off balance where the sensei could redirect him more or less as he pleased.

Last time, we talked about creating a common centre by discovering the other side’s priorities and goals. It is only then that we can blend and direct towards a win-win solution. When we understand the other side’s perspective, (and our own), we see that very few situations are truly zero-sum (for you to get more, I must have less), since there are almost always other wants that we value differently and can more easily trade off. We do this by framing our offers and demands in ways that either advance the goals of both sides, or at least impede them as little as possible. This is like the classic example of two people fighting over a bag of oranges, until they realize that one really just wants the juice to drink and the other wants the pulp to make marmalade, so they can each get what they want.

The basic formula is something like this:

So if I [do A] that would help you [achieve B] and still let me [Achieve C]; is that right?”

It is also crucial to remember that you are not dictating the solution; the “is that right?”, or similar, is important to invite the other side to “buy in” to your suggestion, or to suggest changes to it.

This is the last in a four part series on the application of aikido principles to conflict resolution. Michael Boulet is a lawyer, mediator and partner at Shook, Wickham, Bishop & Field. He can be reached at 250.204.2177 or online at www.CRlawyers.ca.

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