A common phrase in communication is ‘seek the win-win’. In fact, I will probably use is a couple of times in this article. It is used so often because it really is the foundation of strong, positive relationships. You will regularly find times when you are in a disagreement with others or, when your needs are slightly different. The most common approach to these situations is to try and get your own way without consideration for the other person. However, this will generally lead to conflict, stress and damaged relationships. The real pity about this is that conflict is usually avoidable as there is a win-win solution to be found in most situations.

Even where both people cannot get exactly what they want, there is usually a good opportunity to find a win-win solution which is acceptable to both parties. When you identify and, implement, a win-win solution, both parties leave the situation with a sense of accomplishment and a better feeling about the relationship. The very fact that you attempted to find a win-win solution is usually enough to build the respect and trust required to build positive relationships.

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The path to a win-win solution

There really is no reason for not trying to find a win-win solution. Whenever you find you are in disagreement with others and, you are seeking a different solution, implement the steps below. You will usually be able to find a win-win solution which is acceptable to all parties.

1. Separate the issue from the person


We all have different values and beliefs. We also have different wants and needs from life. Just because you would have behaved differently in a given situation, it does not mean that the other person is wrong. The world is not black and white. There rarely is just one right and one wrong way to do something. I can tell you from past experience that when you act like the world is black and white; you will inflict a lot of unnecessary suffering upon yourself.

Also, bear in mind that we all do stupid things from time to time. Nobody is 100% good and nobody is 100% bad. When we remember this, we are reminded that a bad act does not make a bad person. When you need to speak to someone about the way they have behaved, make every effort to separate the act from the person. If the person feels like you are attacking them, rather than challenging their behaviour; they are likely to feel threatened and close down the channels of communication. The constructive feedback model will give you some guidelines as to how you can separate the issue and the person.

In recent times, I have taken to studying the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism. Taoism tells us that humans are nature too. As such, people will act in what they perceive to be their own best interests. You trust your garden to grow with only a little caring and gentle support from you. That is the same approach we need to take with others. We need to treat them with kindness, compassion, and caring. When we do this, we automatically focus on the behaviour rather than the person when things are not as we would like. We can then try to find a win-win solution through trust and cooperation, rather than force; thus building a better relationship and avoiding resistance and hostility.

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Learn to communicate in a calm, confident and composed manner that focuses on the issue, not the person.

2. Do your homework


An argument based upon opinions and assumptions is rarely convincing. Do your homework before raising your issue. Have your facts, figures and details to hand. The more support that you can offer for your viewpoint, the more likely the other person is to listen to you. Think of it like seeking investment in your business. If you couldn’t tell the potential investors how much money you have made and, expect to make, they are not very likely to take you up on your offer. With important conversations, it is essential that you prepare. Your preparation will demonstrate the benefits of your suggestion and so, increase the likelihood that the other person will want to seek a win-win solution.

In such situations, it is always good to think about things from the other perspective. Have you ever had somebody attempt to convince you to change your behaviour, based solely on their opinion? Because when you do not do your homework, you are just basing things on your opinion. Facts are neutral so, when you bring them into a discussion, you are showing that your desire for change is not personal. There are genuine reasons for seeking that change. Facts and figures give the other person something to consider.

Of course, they might have their facts, figures and details to back up their view. That is something you should appreciate because it gives you something to consider. You may even feel that they have a point and you consider changing your view. Alternatively, once you have considered the other argument, you may find that you are more confident in your view. These details take passion and emotions out of the argument and enhance the chances of finding a win-win solution.


3. State what it is that you want


It is amazing how many people will enter a discussion or negotiation without being clear on what they want. Even when they are clear, they are often not keen on sharing with the other person what it is that they want. But, how is the other person supposed to help you find a win-win solution if they do not know what you constitute as a win? I have, in the past, attended negotiations which dragged on for ages, only to be completed within minutes of one side opening up and stating ‘this is what we are looking for’. People are not mind readers; they cannot help you achieve your goal unless you tell them what your goal is.

Obviously, in critical situations, you do not want to tell them what the worst offer that you are prepared to accept is but, you can always tell what the ideal outcome you are looking for is.

What you want also includes your expectations. We often do things for people where we think that they should give us something in return. However, out of fear of being seen in the wrong light, we hold back on telling them what they expect. Instead, we think that should be able to read our minds and give us what we are looking for. Life doesn’t work that way. It always pays to be clear about what you want. It will save time and conflict, and it will increase your chances of getting a win-win solution.


4. Listen intently


Just as others cannot help you find a win-win solution unless you tell them what you want; you cannot help them find a win-win solution unless they tell you what they want. It is imperative that you listen intently to them. Do not be afraid to ask probing questions to gather more information. Invite them to tell you more and, if necessary, don’t be afraid to ask them straight out what they are looking for. The more relevant information that you can gather, the easier it becomes to resolve the situation amicably.

The clue is in the name i.e. ‘win-win solution. You are looking for a way in which both of you can experience a win from the situation. Both of you can come out happy with what you have achieved, without feeling a sense of sacrifice or loss. Listening intently is the most important step in the process because when you do so, you show the other person that you do want to help them get what they want. This will lower their defenses and encourage them to open. It builds the trust I mentioned earlier.

Taking this approach helps you to accept that you do not need to have the solutions. It may well be that the solution is offered to you as you listen and respond. Both parties have a responsibility in finding a win-win solution so, ensure that both parties have the opportunity to contribute.

5. Repeat and emphasise the key points


Once both parties have spoken, it is important that you repeat what you believe to be the key points. This demonstrates that you understand the other person while also reasserting the important issues for you. Invite the other person to add any key points which they feel you might have missed.

It never fails to amaze me how often we leave a conversation with a different opinion of what was agreed than the person we were talking to. If you have ever played Chinese whispers, you will have noticed how crazily different the message can be by the time it gets passed on by a few people. It can be great fun to see what comes out the other end.

Just because Chinese whispers is a game, it doesn’t mean that we should miss the message it gives us i.e. never assume that the recipient received the message you intended to send. Many discussions end with both parties feeling like they won but it is not a true win-win solution unless you have both agreed on the same thing.  So, before you end the discussion, check to see that you are both in agreement. It will save you many headaches.

6. Seek a win/win solution


Once you are agreed on the key points, make it clear that you would like to find a win-win solution i.e. an agreement that works for both of you. Don’t just enforce your own views on this. Invite them to offer their own suggestions. If you can find a suitable solution there and then, that is great. If you cannot, then you can agree a later time to come back to the discussion; allowing you both more time to generate ideas.

Finding a win-win solution may well require some compromise on your part. You may have to give up on something which you would have liked but is not very important. However, it is important to note that a win-win solution does not require sacrifice. Throughout this article, I have encouraged you to try to accommodate the needs of the other person but you mustn't forget your own needs either. It may take some time to develop a solution but it is worth it if you can manage it.

Assertiveness Tactics Report

Seeking a win-win solution is the ultimate aim of assertiveness. You can learn more with my FREE Assertiveness Tactics report.

Get Your FREE Copy Here

7. Deliver on what you have promised


You may think that once you have come to an agreement, you have achieved your win-win solution. This is not the case. Your solution has not been achieved until you have taken the necessary action and the situation has been successfully resolved. Agreements without action occur every day and they are of no value. The only agreements that are of true value are the ones which are acted upon. That is why you absolutely must deliver on what you promise. If you don’t, you will lose all trust and respect and, your relationship may be irreparably damaged.

Finding win-win solutions is just one aspect of effective communication skills. Learn more with How To Talk So Others Will Listen.

How to Talk So Others Will Listen

Finding win-win solutions is just one aspect of effective communication skills. There are many other aspects which will improve every area of your lfie.

Learn more great communication strategies with 'How To Talk So Others Will Listen'.

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One of the most important skills in building positive relationships is the ability to find a win-win solution when you hold opposing views. Conflict and stress occur when you attempt to force your ways upon others. This can do irreparable damage to your relationships. Then, when you are most in need of some help, you may find that you have burned your bridges, leaving you with nobody to turn to. This is unnecessary because in most situations, there will be at least one win-win solution to be found. When you try to find a win-win solution you build trust and earn the respect of the other person, even if your attempts to find such a solution are unsuccessful. Also, if people know that you generally find a win-win solution, they will be more understanding on those rare occasions where you have to insist on having your own way.


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