Lessons a Virtual Reality Game Can Teach Us About Negotiating

I had a new experience this week which reinforced my beliefs about the importance of reframing how we look at negotiation. For some time, I’ve been touting the advantages (and necessity) of breaking old conditioning and redefining our concepts of success, conflict, power and the art of negotiation. The more work I do in this area, the more value I see in it, and the more examples I see of how our skewed conditioning holds us back in negotiating our best lives. 

The reminder came by way of a virtual reality experience. It was my first foray into the VR world. It was surreal and a little disorienting at first, but I got the hang of it shortly after they placed a seemingly disembodied floating gun and sword in my hands. I use the term ‘my hands’ loosely as when I looked down, I could only see my blue avatar hands and arm – a tad disconcerting on first glance. 

The object of the game was to capture Davey Jones’ treasure. To do that, we had to fight off a never-ending barrage of pirate skeletons, ghosts, cannon attacks, and even Davey Jones himself, using our reloadable virtual gun and flaming sword. We were supposed to work as a team. In fact, team members could bring a fallen comrade back to life by touching their shoulder (again, not so easy when you’re not used to your avatar body).  

Our team had two men and two women. Part way through the game, I noticed that each time I ‘died’ it was my female teammate who rescued me with a shoulder touch. In fact, I began to notice that it was us women who did all the reviving as the guys kept shooting and slashing (even when their transparent lifeless bodies and weapons weren’t actually working). 

And when we finally discovered the treasure, one of our male teammates shot us all, thinking he’d keep the treasure himself (which ended up not working and we all died). 

After the game it struck me about the profound impact of subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) messaging that shapes how we show up and interact in this ‘game’ called life. Because at the end of the simulation, our individual scores came up – I didn’t even know we were being scored individually – and the message seemed to be that we had actually been competing with each other even though we were on the same team. 

We got scored based on how much ‘damage’ (their word, not mine) we each did individually. Conspicuously absent in the scoring was any credit for effective strategizing or saving your teammates. Perhaps that explained why our male counterparts never wasted time on reanimating anyone. Not only did saving a teammate take precious seconds, but it left you vulnerable as you took your attention away from the advancing ghouls (who ultimately eviscerated us), and it meant lost points away from the action.  

That got me to thinking about the importance of the work we do around the ‘rise of the feminine’. Had we all taken a collaborative approach, working together as a team, having each other’s backs, we likely wouldn’t have lost the treasure (and our lives). But hard-wired conditioning led to an immediate competitive approach, not just against the imminent threat, but against each other. 

The need to exert power ‘over’ each other rather than seeking power ‘with’ each other ultimately led to our demise. Similarly, skewed perspectives on what constituted ‘success’, based on a ‘winner-take-all’ mindset, ironically caused us to lose. Our very sense of ‘conflict’ itself was off base. Instead of looking for creative, collaborative approaches to better outcomes and opportunities, we ended up set against each other, to disastrous effect. This was true in the world of VR, and it’s equally true in real-life negotiations.

My hope is that as we continue to have dialogue and raise our awareness about the negative impact of conditioning based on competitive models, we’ll start to shift our perspective and mindsets to a more collaborative approach. Dare I say a more ‘feminine’ approach. And by that I don’t mean gender – we all have both masculine and feminine energy but sadly have been led to see our so-called feminine traits as a liability. 

What do I mean by a ‘feminine’ approach? One based on empathy, where we truly seek to understand and meet the needs of others. One where we listen, collaborate, build trust, stay flexible, and approach perceived conflict with curiosity, looking for creative solutions that best serve all. The beauty of that approach is that it brings better outcomes, better relationships, better buy-in, longer lasting agreements and less conflict. Isn’t that a better way to ‘win’ at the game of life

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Please enjoy my TEDx Ocala talk
- Rise of the Feminine Voice as the Key to Our Future-  

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Tags

game’ called life, Negotiations, VR, VR Davey Jones Locker, VR Pirates


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