How Starting the Negotiation is Like Ziplining

Conflict Zen Blog by Tammy Lenski

Yesterday, my husband and I traversed burma bridges and climbed ladders to reach a narrow platform high up in a huge white pine, known as “White Knucke Pine.” Perfect name, believe me.

It was the last element in a zipline canopy tour we took in the White Mountains and it was the scariest of all the ziplines. As I stood on the edge of the platform and looked at the very steep drop of the cable before it crossed to the other mountainside, the screams of the people who’d jumped off before me reverberated in my head.

“Anytime you’re ready,” said our guide, who’d just attached my carabiners to the zipline. The tall tree we were standing in swayed in the breeze, reminding me how very high up we were. Did I mention I’m not so fond of heights?

“I’m not sure I can do this one,” I said quietly, more to myself than to the guide.

“You’ve done the others. Don’t think. You’re ready and able. Just go.”

That had been my planned mantra from the moment we agreed that we’d spend this and every future anniversary doing something daring we hadn’t ever done before. As we sat in the off-road vehicle taking us up to the first zipline, I’d told myself, “Don’t think. If you think, you’ll talk yourself into pausing, and pausing will give you time to scare yourself. Just jump. Just jump. Just jump.” I’d done that on all the prior jumps and had been grinning ear to ear for well over an hour of 1000-foot-long ziplines up to 200 feet in the air.

But all the other ziplines kind of went outward first, not down down down like this one, and none had been from this high up in a tree on a swaying platform with no railing.

As the guide said, “Just go,” I did. I plunged down 80 feet and shot across the valley at around 50 mph, looking out at magnificent views and down at the tops of other very tall trees. No scream, just a rush of adrenaline and a big smile. Then, from the other side, I turned to watch my husband swoop down and fly toward me, a huge grin on his face as he approached.

When my negotiation and conflict resolution coaching clients are ready to step up to the difficult conversation or negotiation for which they’ve sought my assistance, I often see a hesitancy similar to the one I experienced on that platform. They start thinking their way out of having the conversation or confronting the problem or attending to the negotiation. They let their fear start catastrophizing.

“Don’t think,” the guide has said, “You’re ready and able. Just go.” When you’ve done the right prep, it’s good advice for ziplining and for negotiating.


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