This story is based on mediation training at Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation.
Two brothers had a dispute about who was to have the last orange. The younger brother, who purchased the orange for $1.00, claimed the orange was his orange. The older brother, who lent his younger brother $5.00, claimed it was his orange. If the dispute were litigated, a court would likely award the orange to the younger brother because he acquired title to the orange when he purchased the orange. If the dispute were arbitrated, an arbitrator would likely award the orange split in two giving each brother half of what was claimed. In mediation, a skilled mediator would facilitate communication between the parties discovering the younger brother wanted to eat the fruit of the orange while the older brother wanted the orange peel for a cake he is baking. Although disputes are rarely so simple, this parable illustrates mediation’s power to resolve disputes by discovering the needs and interests of each party that underlies that party’s position.