It's what you learn after you know it all that counts

John Wooden quoteLast week my husband and I visited the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. What I anticipated to be several hours of general boredom on my part turned into a three-hour reflection on great negotiation and conflict resolution.

It all started with this quote from legendary hoops coach John Wooden, posted high on an archway: It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts. That’s when I realized I wasn’t just visiting a mecca for fans, I was visiting a tribute to some of the best coaching in the world.

I’ve talked here before about the mistake of certainty, the danger of reflexive loops in relationships, the importance of suspending your disbelief during conflict conversations, and the secret good mediators know about staying curious.

But it only took Wooden 11 words to remind us that great negotiators learn how to move past their own certainty, their own ego’s closing of the mind. Great negotiators know that it’s the territory beyond certainty that holds the greatest promise for optimal results that also preserve the personal or professional relationship.