The Art of the Possible/Martin Rosenfeld

Posted on July 17, 2011


Noemie Emery of the Weekly Standard has written an incisive piece about the budget talks. Democrats, she says, talk about what the country should do in areas of medical, social, and national welfare. However, as she points out, what a country should do is not always synonymous with what the country can do. Discussion regarding policy needs to center about the range of possibility. Budget talks need to be more than a glorified “wish list” if the country is to be on a sound economic course.
In negotiations, parties focus on what should be done. The better approach is to negotiate what is possible and what is not possible. If a party agrees that something should be done, but they cannot do it, little has been accomplished. Successful negotiations need to focus on the art of the possible. Reality testing, integral to mediation theory, becomes a critical component to a successful ,and realistic conclusion.
It is no coincidence that the book which spawned mediation theory is entitled “Getting to Yes”. We all need to be honest and unapologetic on our negotiations. But without realism and striving for that which is possible, we will be stuck in place with little to show for our efforts. If you doubt that, please consider where Democrats, Republicans, and the President are currently finding themselves in the budget talks. Get to “Yes”. Mediate don’t litigate.