A Few Words About Negotiation

Larry Price
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Wednesday - December 20, 2006
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About a year ago while I was in Rehab Hospital of the Pacific, I observed a young boy watching a man using two canes to walk, slowly and cautiously, on the sidewalk leading into the reception area.

Unbeknownst to the youngster, the person he was watching suffered from cerebral palsy, a condition which made walking a difficult task, even with two canes to assist him.

You could tell the young boy was very curious, and finally he walked up to the patient and asked him, “Are your legs broken?”

The older patient replied with a smile that they weren’t - that’s probably just the way they were made.


The boy paused and asked, “Will they ever get better?” The patient said, “No, I don’t think so.”

The curious youth took a moment to reflect on what the patient had said and asked, “Oh well. Too bad.”

The patient nodded in agreement with the boy’s assessment of his condition.

Suddenly, the boy seemed enlightened and declared, “But they’ll work when you’re in heaven, right?” To which the patient smiled broadly and again agreed.

This illustrates the innocence of youth and how they respond to everyday occurrences related to their level of experience and knowledge. It’s interesting to note that the words the young boy used during the encounter: “Oh well. Too bad” are a response we can all use in a variety of life situations. For instance, on the golf course, if your putt doesn’t go into the hole to capture the critical “birdie,” you can throw up your hands and say simply say, “Oh well. Too bad.” Yelling and moaning is not going to change anything and will actually cause more damage to all concerned.

The phrases can also be used in isolation from each other. A lot of parents hear it from their children all the time and think it is a lack of understanding, like when a teenager comes home with a less-than-impressive report card and find his parents really upset. The youngster can make excuses and beg forgiveness, or justify the results on the report to his parents by saying, “I really tried, but oh well.” If a child misbehaves and is unhappy about the consequences resulting from his or her actions, the parent can respond with, “Too bad.” If someone informs you that your assessment or prediction of the outcome of a situation was inaccurate, you can reply, “Oh, well.” (Intonation of voice is important here).

If a co-worker doesn’t get the Christmas bonus or raise that he or she was hoping for, an appropriate response one could use, if other words fail, is “Too bad.” (Inflection and tone should convey compassion.)


From a psychological standpoint, these two phrases can be used in many stressful situations that sprout up during the holidays. Instead of ranting and raving when things don’t go as you had planned, just re-frame the situation and think, “Oh well. Too bad.” Then proceed to do something else or try again.

Isn’t it amazing how a mere two short phrases, uttered by a young boy, can be considered the universal responses to a multitude of life’s holiday situations? It is also evidence that sometimes, when less is said, it becomes more helpful during stressful situations.

Hopefully, this little negotiating tip is interesting and worth considering to those trying to give those filled with anguish the holiday spirit.

If not, oh well. Too bad.

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