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Victory is Found in Win-Win Agreements

By Daniel Bobinski

An important concept in Stephen Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” is Habit 4: Think Win-Win. I believe more people struggle with incorporating this habit over any other. In my findings, the key to success is realizing that achieving a win-win outcome is much easier if one first develops a win-win mindset. It’s a way of thinking that doesn’t come naturally, so here’s a tip: one of the easiest ways to think win-win is to start every transaction seeking a win-win agreement.  

OK, so what is a win-win agreement? 

In practical terms, it means entering into any negotiation wanting to know what the “win” is for you, and also what the “win” is for the other person – then actively working to achieve both. 

In other words, not only must you know how you define a win, but you must also want to know how the other person defines a win. If you can’t develop this desire, then you can’t establish a win-win agreement, and reaching a win-win outcome happens only be accident. 

Other mindsets exist that will block your ability to think this way. They are: 

  • Win-Lose Thinking. This is the idea that the only way you can get a win is if someone else loses. Unfortunately, this type of thinking is magnified in our society, often due to the prevalence of sporting matches. Except in the rare case of a tie, there’s always a winner and a loser in sporting matches. 
  • Lose-Win Thinking. Another common thinking modality is when people believe they must be on the losing end so someone else can win. This kind of thinking is actually sad to me because people who subscribe to this mentality lack self-respect. Even though they deserve to get their needs met, they forfeit under the mistaken belief that they’re being helpful to others if they give up what they rightfully deserve. 

Other options include Lose-Lose Thinking, and “Win” Thinking. Lose-Lose Thinking can be seen when someone is holding a grudge and is willing to lose out on something so long as someone else also loses out. Think of a judge ordering a divorcing couple to sell an expensive sports car and split the money, only to have the husband sell the car for a dollar so he can give his wife 50 cents. 

In “Win” Thinking, a person sets out to win no matter what. It doesn’t matter if the other person wins or loses, but the “Win” person has the mindset that he or she is going to win. 

In Win-Win Agreements, the mindset is quite liberating. Think of it this way: “I want to win, and I want you to win. If we can’t find a way to make that happen, then let’s not do the deal.” Said another way, if we both can’t win, let’s just be agreeable that now is not the right time to move forward. 

Working under such an agreement creates a focus for true cooperation and progress. It’s different from how many people think, but it gives you the best chance at achieving a win-win outcome.

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