COME TO THE FEASTThe “SUPRA” Model of Negotiation?


For this month’s blog, I brainstormed with a number of esteemed friends and colleagues for inspiration in my search for a new moniker for “Win-Win Negotiation” and “Make the Pie Bigger”, both time-honored concepts central to what I teach, but both now also a bit shopworn and hackneyed, especially for European audiences.

A breakthrough came when my friends from Tbilisi reminded me of the Georgian concept of the “Supra”, the generous feast offered to visitors to celebrate a new friendship. A toastmaster encourages round-robin contributions to the collective toast being offered until everyone feels they’ve had their say and are ready to imbibe together as one.

Might this be a promising new metaphor for what we are trying to communicate?

I like it for at least ten reasons:

1. It comes from a deep spirit of generosity, which goes well with the inquiry and empathy skills of good negotiation
2. It is all about relationship, and not just about content (food)
3. It involves many different dishes which add to the feast not just quantitatively
4. In a supra, there are plenty of pies, and they are not all sweet. In fact, the most popular is the khachapuri, a succulent cheese pie. So here another assumption is exploded.
5. Supras take time. Deadlines are frowned upon.
6. Supras require rhetorical skill. In an elaborate sequence, the tamadas (or toastmasters) propose eloquent toasts to the company. The dance of positions? In any case, there is lots of listening.
7. Supras also require restraint: the rule is that one does not drink after each toast, but puts the glass down untouched. At least at first.
8. We all know that food is a great help in negotiations. It is very difficult to fight with someone while sharing a meal together.
9. Supras are often repeated. You always meet again, perhaps next time as host.
10. Finally, there is something intriguing about picking up a metaphor from a post-Soviet country, a part of the world that most of us do not associate with Win-Win.

What do you think? Comments welcome!