An Analogy on Negotiation


I volunteer as a Guardian Ad Litem with the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center. Basically, what this means is that when there is an incident of alleged domestic violence that involves a restraining order and there are children included in the order, I investigate what’s happened to ensure that the children’s rights are protected.

Sometimes, the evidence of abuse is clear and the decision is easy, in the sense that one parent should not receive parenting time. In those cases, most often, the abusive parent either cannot be found or refuses to appear for the interview. Then, I have no choice but to recommend that all parenting time be allocated to the other parent.

Other times, things aren’t so clear. Both parents have genuine love and affection for their children, have found themselves in a difficult situation, and my role is to broker a peace with two people who find it difficult to get along with each other. The process of helping people reach an agreement is one of the most powerful and rewarding things I do as an attorney. But the process of coming to an agreement isn’t magic. It only works when the parties are willing to accommodate the other’s position when reason dictates that it makes sense to do so. The situations where both parents are willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the children, even if means a lesser result in some senses for themselves, are the ones who end up achieving an agreement that avoids additional acrimony and strife for their children. For these families, there is hope.

While the stakes are very different with my startup clients, the same holds true. I frequently deal with negotiations where people’s livelihood is at stake, and emotions can run high. On occasion, I run in to an entrepreneur or an attorney who is so obsessed with “winning” the negotiation that all future business relations among the parties are slashed and burned in the process. They lose sight of the fact that greater success can almost always be achieved through collaboration than through bitter dispute. Going to war over a few extra percent of equity doesn’t help when the company goes to shit as a result.

Perhaps the analogy may seem callous to some. But in business and in life, those who engage others with empathy and a willingness to reason will always come out ahead of those who let righteous indignation and ego cloud their decision-making.

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