A negotiator walks into a bar: a joke teaches a lesson on problem solving

A friend recently sent me the following joke:

During a visit to a mental asylum, a visitor asked the director how to determine whether or not a patient should be institutionalised. “Well,” said the director, “we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the patient, and ask him to empty the bathtub.” “

Oh, I see,” said the visitor. “A normal person would use the bucket because it is bigger than the spoon or the teacup.”

“No,” said the director, “a normal person would pull out the plug. Do you want the bed near the window?”

What I love about the joke — apart from the fact that it’s actually clean and therefore suitable to repeat in the presence of clients — is how neatly it illustrates an all too common problem: sometimes, when we are presented with several options, they may blind us to other choices — including the simplest and most sensible one.

When you’re looking for solutions or preparing to negotiate, are good ideas going down the drain?

                        author

Diane J. Levin

Diane Levin, J.D., is a mediator, dispute resolution trainer, negotiation coach, writer, and lawyer based in Marblehead, Massachusetts, who has instructed people from around the world in the art of talking it out. Since 1995 she has helped clients resolve disputes involving tort, employment, business, estate, family, and real property… MORE >

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