In his best selling book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey noted that when it comes to healthy relationships, mature people think “win/win”.
Win/Win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all situations, agreements and solutions. With a Win/Win solution, all parties feel good about the decision and are committed to the action plan - there is something in it for everybody and everybody wins. Win/Win sees life as a co-operative, not a competition. One person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others - it’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way.
It helps to avoid alternative approaches such as:
1. Win/Lose - “If I win, you lose.” Most people see life in terms of dichotomies: strong/weak, big/small, master/servant, win/lose etc. Our society is structured around this type of thinking. In families where there is conditional love children are taught that life is about comparison with someone else or against some standard. In peer groups children are taught that acceptance is based on conformity to a standard or norm. At school there is a grading system which compares each child to the other and determines which is the better. In business, we operate in a “dog eat dog” environment where there is only room for the survivor at the expense of all others. In our pastimes such as sport there is only a prize for the winner. Unfortunately, most of the quality we want in our lives depends on our co-operation with others not on whether we or they are better.
2. Lose/Win - “I lose, you win.” People who think lose/Win are usually quick to please. They seek strength from popularity or acceptance. They have little courage to express their own feelings and convictions and are easily intimidated by others. In negotiations, Lose/Win is seen as giving in or giving up. In leadership style, Lose/Win is permissiveness or indulgence, being “Mr Nice Guy” even if nice guys are walked on.
3. Lose/Lose - Some people are so centred on an enemy, so totally obsessed with the other person’s behaviour that they become blind to everything except their desire for that person to lose, even if it means losing themselves. Lose/Lose is the philosophy of war. “If I can’t have it, then neither will they.”
4. Win - People with the Win mentality don’t necessarily want someone else to lose - what matters is that they win. This is probably the most common approach to everyday negotiation. Win thinking is in terms of securing your own ends and leaving others to secure theirs. “Look out for No. 1”
5. Win/Win or No Deal - This is a higher expression of Win/Win which says that if we can’t find a solution that would benefit us both then we agree to disagree agreeably - No Deal. With No Deal as an option, you are liberated because you are able to say that it would be better not to deal than to live with a decision that isn’t right for us both. If you can’t reach a true Win/Win, then No Deal is better.
Which option is best?
The most effective option depends on the situation:-
- Win/Lose - This might be used to stimulate business
- Lose/Win - If you value a relationship and the issue isn’t important.
- Win - If someone’s life is in danger etc.
However, in most situations the best result will be achieved with a Win/Win approach - particularly when there are people and relationships involved (interdependence).
Jesus himself taught that we should think about how other people like be treated then grab the initiative and treat them that way (Matthew 7:12). That's win win!