Think Win-Win

We tend to think in terms of dichotomies — strong or weak, nice or tough, win or lose, etc. — but this kind of thinking is flawed. Contrary to popular belief, life is not meant to be lived as a zero-sum game, where in order for one to win, the other has to lose. This belief comes from a scarcity mindset, but the truth is there is enough to go around for everyone. Not only is it possible to be nice and tough or strong and weak (at different times), etc., it’s important that we do so.

The first thing we tend to think about when we get into trouble is suing others, taking them to court, and “winning” at their expense. We “compete” with our friends, neighbors, spouses, colleagues, etc. without thinking twice.

Because we live in an interdependent world, the results we want depend on cooperation between us and others (and not competition) with exceptions, of course.

According to Covey, Win-Win is not a technique but a philosophy of human interaction. It’s a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Think of it as a mode of interaction or mindset where we are thinking (and doing) what is in the best interest for both you and the other person. Not doing things my way or your way, but a better or higher way.

In order to understand this quickly, think of two parties that negotiated with each other about something wherein both parties got what they wanted (and/or felt that they gave something up). In the end, if both parties cannot come to a mutually agreeable “solution”, it’s best to agree to disagree and come back later when the conditions are more favorable.

Let me explain a situation where I practiced Win-Win during a community meeting not too long ago. The issue at hand was that children were playing in the lobby and the adjacent space near the building, much to the dismay of the residents in the building and the senior citizens. Playing in the lobby meant that the children’s voices would echo throughout the tower because of its layout, thereby disturbing the residents in their homes. Playing ball games in the adjacent space meant risking potential injury to senior citizens. During the meeting, the challenge was to find a space for children where they could play without interruption while also keeping in mind the space for senior citizens to enjoy their leisure time and one that worked for other residents in the building as well. We wanted a solution that would work for the children, the residents of the community, as well as the senior citizens enjoying their leisure time in the evening. We came up with a few options and finally zeroed in one solution that worked for all. This is how we practiced Win-Win-Win.

In any personal/work relationship, if both people involved are not winning, then both are losing. In a relationship, if one person is a Win-Lose, and the other is a Lose-Win, then they will get along “nicely” to their detriment. This is quite common in marriages, where one person is a Win-Lose and the other is a Lose-Win. Win-Lose people like feeding on Lose-Win people because they complement each other so well (not a good thing for both in the long run). The problem with Lose-Win is that there are things stirring inside their minds all the time as they are suppressing their emotions, and if not dealt with quickly, it will likely come out later in uglier and unexpected ways, like overreacting to little things, being cynical, being passive-aggressive, and showing resentment and/or having a general feeling of despair.

One thing to be aware of particularly in personal conflicts (in my experience) is that we tend to swing like a pendulum between Win-Lose and Lose-Win. For instance, we might get mad at others for something (practicing Win-Lose) until we experience guilt and swing back to Lose-Win or until our anger and frustration drives us back to Win-Lose.

Of course, not all situations warrant having a Win-Win mindset. Some situations require you to be Win-Lose, Lose-Win, Lose-Lose, or Win. For instance, if you’re playing a game/sport, you want to win, and so the other person has to lose and you have to be okay with that. Other examples of Win-Lose can be seen in education, organizations, etc. where we operate from a paradigm of competition. Let me explain Lose-Win using the example I just shared. You might be playing a board game with your child, and you might want to let them win the game because it’s more important for you to build a relationship and form a bond with your child over winning the game (of course, there’s nothing wrong with you winning the game yourself, but the more important thing would be to form that bond and to have fun with your children by spending quality time together doing things you both enjoy). Lose-Lose means, “If I don’t get what I want, I won’t let you have it either”. Win means, “I am going to win and I don’t care if it helps/hurts you”. It’s more important for you to win regardless of whether it helps/hurts the other person; you’re basically being indifferent to others.

Here are a few reasons to always have a win-win mindset with others:

  • It’s the single best way I know to improve both our relationships and results.

  • We should avoid doing things at the expense of others. This could be at home (with family members) or at work (with staff or customers). Although you might get results in the short term (at their expense), in the long term, it will be a lose-lose for both of you.

  • Life is not a zero-sum game where in order for one person to win the other has to lose. That thinking stems from a scarcity mindset. The truth is there is enough to go around for everyone. Think abundance!

Having a Win-Win mindset requires us to have (and express) high courage and high sensitivity with others. Think of it as “tough love” that we give to others and/or accept from them. It’s when we are supporting others and also challenging (and confronting) them that we have what I call balance. It requires us to be a person of high character and integrity. It requires us to be truly independent — highly proactive, value-driven, and principle-centered.

Ideally, in any interaction, we want high levels of both courage and sensitivity. Win-Lose people show high courage and low sensitivity. Anyone who is in a position of authority can be thought of as having a Win-Lose mindset. For instance, think of a boss being typically Win-Lose with their staff. As someone with a Win-Win mindset, dealing with Win-Lose people can be challenging as it requires us to listen, understand, and empathize with them. Then later, we must show courage to make ourselves understood. Lose-Win people have low courage and high sensitivity.

Having a Win-Win mindset in life is crucial to getting results and having fulfilling relationships with others. When it comes to working with others, Win-Win is the only viable strategy in the long term. Life does not have to be a zero-sum game. That stems from a scarcity mindset. There is plenty for everyone. Having a Win-Win mindset with others is the single best way I know of improving our relationships and results.

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