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Beyond The Limits Of Cash or Credit

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Money�s Not The Only Medium Of Exchange

In a ground-breaking legal memoir titled �Alchemy of Race and Rights� (Harvard University Press 1992), Columbia Law School Professor Patricia Williams talks about lessons learned in her community�s local barter circle.

�Once upon a time some neighbors of mine included me in their circle of barter. They were in the habit of exchanging eggs and driving lessons, hand-knit sweaters and computer programming, plumbing and calligraphy.

�I accepted the generosity of their inclusion with gratitude. At first, I felt that, as a lawyer, I had nothing to contribute. What I came to realize with time, however, was that my value to the group was not calculated by the physical items I brought to it.

�These people included me because they wanted me to be part of their circle, they valued my participation apart from the material things I could offer. So I gave of myself to them, and they gave me fruit cakes and dandelion wine and smoked salmon, and in their giving, their goods became provisions.

�Cradled in this community whose currency was a relational ethic, my stock in myself soared. My value depended on the glorious intangibility, the eloquent invisibility of my just being part of the collective, and in direct response I grew spacious and happy and gentle.�

If you look past the smoked salmon and the dandelion wine, you will find the phrase �currency (of) relational ethic.� Williams is talking about the intangible value of relations as a means of exchange rather than, or in addition to, the numeric value of money. We all benefit when we remind ourselves that money is simply one medium of exchange, and certainly not the only one.

Mutual Exploration Creates New Business Opportunities

Interest-based negotiations flourish whenever parties are able to identify tangible goods or services as well as the intangible benefits such as recognition, respect and apologies, that might be available to enhance a monetary exchange.

An example of this occurred when AT&T was in a 1999 fight with Comcast corporation for the acquisition of MediaOne Group. All parties were at impasse until AT&T offered to provide Comcast with surplus AT&T cable systems that would fill Comcast�s critical need for additional subscribers�2 million to be exact. In exchange, Comcast withdrew its $48 billion bid for MediaOne, leaving AT&T as the only potential purchaser in the field.

Interest-based negotiations such as this deal go beyond evaluating the strength of the parties� �positions� by engaging them in a mutual exploration and assessment of everyone�s needs and resources�a process that can create new business opportunities or relationships that increase the value of Business A without decreasing the value of Business B.

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