Picture of  Deborah M. Osborne

Deborah M. Osborne

Athena Agreements’ founder Deborah M. Osborne is a certified negotiation and conflict resolution expert with 20+ years of experience and over 500 cases under her belt.


As a trained neutral party and mediator, I find that an old-fashioned easel with white paper or a virtual whiteboard, depending on the setting, helps me in my role of guiding parties to yes. People come to me with problems they cannot fix on their own. They may reach a stalemate in negotiations. Some of them have terminated their business relationship with each other and are in conflict, suing or threatening to sue each other. Those who contact me realize that seeking assistance from a neutral third party with “no vested interest in the outcome of their dispute” is an intelligent choice.

The easel or virtual whiteboard can help you and other parties achieve an agreement. 

HERE ARE SIX reasons why 

1. Ground The Discussion

Writing down the problems which stand in the way of a joint resolution ensures that all parties are on the same page.

2. Group Participation

The whiteboard is a place to record the different points of view of the parties. It guides parties to share their needs and issues clearly.

3. Idea Generator

Ideas captured one by one on the whiteboard during a brainstorming session give rise to more ideas, which leads parties to a creative win-win agreement.

4. Positive Attention Diverter

When parties direct their attention to the easel instead of each other, they face the problem and look for ways to resolve it together.

As Roger Fisher and William Ury elegantly stated, “Be soft on the people and hard on the problem” (Getting To Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In 2011: 13).

5. Organizing Tool

The whiteboard and easel provide structure to the process steadying the parties during the fast pace of the negotiations.

6. Relationship-Builder

The whiteboard fosters inclusivity in decision-making, preserving important relationships necessary to strike a deal that works for everyone.

Based on my experience having guided parties to a mutually satisfactory resolution in hundreds of cases, I gave you six reasons why using an easel or virtual whiteboard is beneficial in negotiations. This visual aid is also a lifesaver for complex negotiations between two or more parties. In cases where the parties cannot agree on everything or anything, their use of visual recording tools that promote inclusivity in problem-identification and decision-making is a testament to their effort. I’ve also experienced instances where the parties only needed a little more downtime until a “light bulb” went off, and they returned to the negotiating table to resolve the problem for good.

The easel or virtual whiteboard holds everyone steady in negotiations. If the parties take advantage of this visual aid, they will find themselves achieving creative and durable outcomes. And, if they cannot reach an agreement that satisfies all their individual interests, they will have at least tried, and that builds social capital for the future. Contacting a trained neutral party to help is another choice because sometimes, parties are too close to the matter to seal the deal.

Try out the old-fashioned easel with sticky white paper for in-person meetings or virtual whiteboard sessions. This visual aid can be wallpapered around the room. It happens to be one of many tools of a mediator’s trade that facilitates bringing parties to a resounding “Yes” even when a resolution seemed impossible. If you find this content interesting and want to know more about the work we do at Athena Agreements, visit https://AthenaAgreements.com 

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