Perspectives from a Mediator/Arbitrator

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Mediation tip #5 - Getting Agreement - Part 1 - Don't be a Zax

One of my very favourite children's story is The Zax by Dr. Seuss. It is a nice short story to read at bedtime and it has a beautiful simple message about resolving conflict. With due credit to Dr. Seuss, I am going to set it out in its entirety here and then I will come back to the process of "Getting Agreement".

One day, making tracks
In the prairie of Prax,
Came a North-Going Zax
And a South-Going Zax.

And it happened that both of them came to a place
Where they bumped. There they stood.
Foot to foot. Face to face.
"Look here, now!" the North-Going Zax said. "I say!
You are blocking my path. You are right in my way.
I'm a North-Going Zax and I always go north.
Get out of my way, now, and let me go forth!"

"Who's in whose way?" snapped the South-Going Zax.
"I always go south, making south-going tracks.
So you are in MY way! And I ask you to move
And let me go south in my south-going groove."
Then the North-Going Zax puffed his chest up with pride.
"I never," he said, "take a step to one side.
And I'll prove to you that I won't change my ways
If I have to keep standing here fifty-nine days!"

"And I'll prove to YOU," yelled the South-Going Zax,
"That I can stand here in the prairie of Prax
For fifty-nine years! For I live by a rule
That I learned as a boy back in South-Going School.
Never budge! That's my rule. Never budge in the least!
Not an inch to the west! Not an inch to the east!
I'll stay here, not budging! I can and I will
If it makes you and me and the whole world stand still!"

Of course the world didn't stand still. The world grew.
In a couple of years, the new highway came through
And they built it right over those two stubborn Zax
And left them there, standing un-budged in their tracks.

There is so much to love here - the unexpected ending, the careful manner in which Seuss notes the escalation of the conflict. It really is better with the pictures and if you have children the right age can be found in a four story book entitled - The Dr. Seuss Story Book. There is another wonderful piece in there called the Lorax which is all about environmental degradation.

Of course, the easy solution to the Zax is to get them to both budge one inch in opposite directions at the exact same time but as someone who resolves conflicts professionally - this is not always as easy as it sounds.


  • Stephen, I absolutely loved this post. Somehow, despite a Seuss collection I've been carting from home to home since childhood, I had been sadly Zax ignorant before today. I'm heading straight to my local bookstore!

    By Anonymous Tammy Lenski, at 2:57 p.m.  

  • Seuss is the source of much wisdom. I'm looking forward to your application of the principles expressed in Yurtle the Turtle!

    By Anonymous scrappy, at 8:18 a.m.  

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