First You Giveth, Then You Taketh Away

This story isn’t true, but it’s analogous to something that happened to me recently: Let’s say that you’re chopping up vegetables to put into a beef soup that will be ready in 10 minutes and a someone walks into the kitchen to grab a cookie.

Here’s one thing you could say: “Don’t eat that cookie! Put that back! The soup will be ready in 10 minutes! Go away!”

Of course, by only thinking about the things you want (hungry diners for your delicious soup and an empty kitchen), you’re just setting yourself up for a conflict. The other person is trying to solve a problem (They’re hungry) and yet you’re trying to take a cookie out of their hand and leave nothing in return. The other person’s best responses might be arguing, whining, blatantly refusing to comply, or covertly returning to sneak a cookie behind your back when you’re not looking. None of these outcomes are optimal for either of you.

But there’s another approach.

When it’s time to build a new bridge, civil engineers don’t knock the old bridge down and then start worrying about building the new one. They build the new bridge next to the old one, and then knock the old bridge down. First they giveth, and then they taketh away.

When it’s time to replace a pump at the refinery, first the engineers get the new system working alongside the old one, and then the shut the old one down. First they giveth, and then they taketh away. IT people do the same with computer systems – it’s called ‘hot swapping’. You don’t shut down the old solution until you’ve got a new one in place.

So if you want to keep someone’s hand out of the cookie jar, try this. When they come into the kitchen and head for the cookies, say, “Hey, come here for a sec.” They might say, “What for?” And you say, “I need you to taste this carrot to see if it’s cooked properly. I know you don’t like your carrots to be mushy.” And they’ll take a bite and say, “Oh, no way! That carrot’s completely raw! You haven’t even put it into the soup yet!”

And you can say, “Well, you’ve taken a bite, so now you must eat the rest. The soup will be ready in 10 minutes.”

Getting what you want from someone else is often more like bartering than arm-wrestling – You often have to offer something in exchange first, not just be the pushiest and most obstinate. If the carrot isn’t enough, add a celery stick and a piece of beef to the deal if they’ll hand you the cookie and leave the kitchen for 10 minutes. This isn’t bribery – it’s hot swapping. It solves their problem by offering a replacement for their current solution. First you giveth, and then you taketh away. This solves their problem, and yours.

And then you can eat the cookie while the carrots finish cooking.


    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

    You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


    Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: