Aim for Win-Win

04.09.2020 |

Episode #7 of the course Confident conflict management by Martin Probst


Welcome back.

Yesterday, you learned about conflict constellations, and which role you should adopt to navigate to a successful outcome. Today, we will take a closer look at why you should aim for “win-win” during conflict situations, and what this actually means.

To effectively manage conflict, you must think win-win. It is not a technique, but much rather a philosophy of human relations. The now common terminology “win-win” was first used by the famous Stephen Covey, and is in detail described in the book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.

“Think Win-Win isn’t about being nice, nor is it a quick-fix technique. It is a character-based code for human interaction and collaboration.” —Stephen Covey

For those not expecting to deal with people and needing their goodwill ever again, it might be appropriate to enter negotiations aggressively and win at all costs. However, successful and inspirational people find an acceptable solution for all involved parties and ensure that those involved feel that they’ve won in some way. This will ensure an ongoing healthy relationship between all involved parties.

A typical story of a badly managed conflict situation is one of two people sharing one orange. Both want the orange and one suggests cutting it in half. One person squeezes their half and throws out the rind but gets barely enough for a drink. The other, with great difficulty, grate their half to flavor a cake and throws out the juicy pulp. They both made do with half an orange, when in fact they both could have had the whole (juice and grind).


Key Factors of Win-Win Outcomes

How can you make sure people get the whole orange? What are the key factors of win-win outcomes? Let us explore the different scenarios of negotiations.

There are several scenarios when it comes down to human interaction:

• win-win

• win-lose

• lose-win

• lose-lose

• win-win or agree-to-disagree

Win-win is a frame of mind that is constantly seeking out scenarios where agreements and solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying for all parties. Win-win is thinking along the lines of abundance for everybody, and that one person’s success is not achieved by the other person’s loss. Win-win is based on the outcome of “a better, higher way” rather than “my way or your way”.

Win-lose is based on the authority principle that if one wins, the other must lose. It is the unfortunately common thinking of scarcity, as in strong-weak, hard-soft, full-empty, winning a game-losing a game, right-wrong, etc. Win-lose is based on the outcome of “my way or the highway”. However, in most circumstances, if all parties are not winning, all are losing.

Lose-win is based on capitulation (giving in or giving up). It is worse than win-lose because it has no expectations, demands, or standards. People who think lose-win seek strength from acceptance and popularity, are quick to please others, have little courage to express their own needs, and are easily intimidated by those around them. Lose-win is based on the outcome of “being a nice person, even if you finish last”.

Lose-lose is based on the philosophy of war. When two win-lose (egoistic and stubborn) personalities come together, the only possible outcome is lose-lose. They become oblivious to everything else but for the other person to lose, even if this results in losing themselves. Lose-lose is based on the outcome of “if nobody can win, then maybe being one of those losers is not necessarily bad”.

Win-win or agree-to-disagree is based on the amicable agreement that both parties want to walk away with a win, but if that is not achievable, they happily walk away until they might find a win-win at a later stage and under different circumstances. This scenario might only be realistic in the early stages of a business relationship; however, it might provide tremendous emotional freedom in a family environment. Win-win or Agree-to-disagree is based on the outcome of “either we both win, or we happily walk away”.

“Faced with the choice of changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” —J. K. Galbraith

As to which option is the best one, the answer is not straight forward. It really depends on the circumstances. If you watch a football game, for example, of course, the aim for each of the teams is win-lose. If you have a quarrel with a friend, and you value your friendship more than the issue at hand, you might want to go for a lose-win this time around. If your child wants something yet you are concerned about their wellbeing or safety, you might need to insist on a win-lose. If you as a family cannot agree on what movie to watch on a Saturday night, you might go for the win-win or agree-to-disagree and hold a board game night instead.

Unsuccessful people often interpret negotiating win-win outcomes for all parties as “losing” or as “being weak”. But in reality, win-win is the best long-term conflict management strategy you can apply.

My top tip for the day: Reflect on a recent disagreement you had with a friend, a family member, or at work. What was the scenario of negotiation and the ultimate outcome? If it wasn’t a win-win, how could the situation have been handled better?

Tomorrow, you will learn how to structure conversations and thus provide you with the confidence of a positive outcome.

“Dare to make a difference!”



Recommended reading

7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Summary)


Recommended book

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey


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