Finding Win-Win Solutions

When approaching a situation involving conflict with another you can have, broadly speaking, two different perspectives leading to two different outcomes. The first is WINNING. Coming out on top. Beating your opponent.

The second is RESOLVING. Finding a solution that is satisfactory to both parties. Perhaps involving compromise, or perhaps involving an innovative approach to resolving the conflict that hadn’t been previously considered.

We live in a competitive, capitalist culture which encourages competition and where winning is paramount. The legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi summarized this mindset with two memorable quotes:

  • “Winning Isn’t Everything – It’s the Only Thing;” and
  • “Show Me a Good Loser and I’ll Show You a Loser.”

But Whether it’s a disagreement with a colleague, a boss or a client, or in a negotiation for a promotion, a raise, or a new assignment: what’s important is to keep in mind the ultimate goal: to create a solution that’s a WIN-WIN.

Eduard Ezeanu, a confidence and communications coach, outlines a useful approach that can increase the chances of this mutually beneficial outcome:

“Win-win solutions are the most desirable way to solve problems and conflicts. When you win and the other person wins, instead of one winning and the other losing, then everybody is happy and the relationship gets stronger as a bonus.

Although win-win solutions exist in many situations, it is often hard to see them. We need a special way of looking at things in order to discover them. I believe that finding win-win solutions happens through effectively applying 3 essential steps:

Step 1: Take your negative emotions out of the equation

The situations where win-win solutions are not evident and need to be found are situations where our interests initially seem to clash with those of another person. They are situations of apparent opposition and conflict.

It is in these kinds of situations that our negative emotions tend to manifest the most: the fear of losing, the anxiety of not finding a convenient way out, or the anger at the other person. These emotions, especially when they are intense, tend to cloud our judgment and our creativity, which are the exact tools we need to find a win-win solution.

This is why it’s fundamental that you detach from any negative emotions. Firstly, recognize them when they manifest and bring into your awareness the fact they sabotage the process of finding a solution. Secondly, combat the irrational thoughts you may have which feed these emotions. This is in my view the most effective way to deal with them.

Step 2: Focus on the solution

If at the emotional level we have the inconvenience of negative emotions, at the behavioral level we have the trouble brought by passive and aggressive communication. It’s very tempting in a conflict situation to communicate this way: to justify ourselves, blame the other person, criticize, avoid the discussion or dig up the past. As we do this, we lose track of finding a win-win solution and so we do not find one. The best way to avoid this phenomenon is to anticipate that it may happen and to notice your focus and communication style in conflict situations. And, every time you catch yourself or the other person straying from the solution finding process, bring the focus and the conversation back to it.

Step 3: Explore the context and options

A significant reason why we often don’t find a win-win solution is that we don’t stick hard enough with the solution finding process. We just give it a shot in a semi-chaotic way, and then we give up. What we need to do is truly explore the context and the options.

In any conflict situation, start by ensuing that both parts agree to try and work together instead of fighting, and state their goals clearly. Continue by exploring the deeper motivations behind the stated goals and understanding each part’s story.

Then, get creative and generate solutions. Analyze each solution together; compare them in terms of costs and benefits for each side and agree on one win-win solution which best serves both parts. Finally, put that solution into practice. Stick to this process, apply it systemically, and if there is a win-win solution for your situation you will find it.

I believe it is always best to try and find a win-win solution to a conflict. Many viable solutions remain just unapplied theory because people don’t put in the effort to find them and don’t approach the whole process in a constructive, effective way.

We live in an abundant world, with many resources. It’s a pity to not find the best ways to use them and to not share them when this is a sound option.”