How to catch a monkey: Find a forest populated by monkeys. Find a round gourd. Open a hole in the gourd. Make it large enough for a monkey’s empty hand to fit through. Put something the monkey wants into the gourd. A kola nut will do. The kola nut rattles around in the gourd, making noise, and piques the monkey’s curiosity. Also, monkeys like kola nuts. Tie the gourd to a tree and wait. Eventually a monkey will come along and find the gourd. Hearing something rattling inside, the monkey will become terribly curious and stick its hand inside to investigate. The monkey can wrap its hand around the nut but, lo and behold, when the monkey tries to pull the nut out, it finds that its fist is too big to fit through the hole. And so the struggle begins. The monkey insists on the impossible – and becomes trapped. All that stands between freedom and the monkey is letting go of the nut.
Holding on to positions can be like that. Being determined to get what you want can become a trap if what you want really is not in your best interest. People in conflict can become so invested in being right about whatever position they’ve taken that they lose sight of reason and fail let go of their positions long enough to look around and see the downsides.
It is important to be able to say no. It is important to understand what you need, find your message and stick with it (remember the Inigo Montoya Effect?). But it is just as important to be certain that what you insist on really is in your best interests and really will address your needs without costing you more than it gives. In mediation, you might find yourself challenged to put aside your position for a moment and consider things from a different perspective. You might find yourself surprised to see that what actually frees you from the conflict trap is different from what you initially expected it to be. Try not to let your positions trap you. Let go of the nut.