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Think Win/Win

By Reverend Molly Cameron

Habit 4: Think Win/Win.

I’ve heard that phrase a lot; have you? It’s become a buzz word, Win/Win.

However, most of us are deeply scripted in Win/Lose. We are compared with others, tested against others, made to compete against others, in law suits against others, and these messages lead us to believe that we are not intrinsically worthy, valuable or loveable if we don’t come out the clear winner, and someone else the clear loser.

Win/Win, however, is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Making sure that all parties benefit from the actions we take. It’s based on the idea that there is plenty for everyone, of everything. That one person’s success is not another’s loss. We are not pitted against one another, but measured by our individual potential.

Dr. Covey tells the story of a business man who talked a great talk about Win/Win to his employees. He built them up as all winners and coached them about how great each of them were, but every Monday morning he’d draw the curtains open on his blackboard, where he had pictures of race horses lined up, and at the other end was a picture of a dream vacation in Bermuda. He had cut out little pictures of each of his employees, and pasted them on the horses’ heads. The winner of “the race” would receive that Bermuda vacation. He could talk win/win, but the reality of what he was telling them was if you win over all the others, you get the big prize. Win/Lose. It’s clear disincentive to Win/Win!

Some of us are programmed the other way – Lose/Win.

We bury our feelings constantly, and give over to others in order to be “nice”, or to avoid conflict, or keep from hurting another person’s feelings. I will lose so that you can win. Now sometimes this is helpful in relationship; when two people each have a different movie in mind for “date night.” One person might give over simply because they don’t have a lot at stake – what movie they see isn’t all that important to them. A fine time to choose Lose/Win.

You probably have known people who are scripted in Lose/Lose. Or married to them. No? Dr. Covey describes them as “determined, stubborn, and ego-invested.” I think about the story I heard about the origins of Two Buck Chuck – the wine that Trader Joe’s sold for $1.99 for so long. The story goes, and I don’t know if it’s real or not, that the owner was involved in a nasty divorce, and his wife contested the winery, which was her husband’s passion and produced very good wine. Because she was angry and bitter, she made a condition of the divorce that her husband’s wine, his pride and joy, could only be sold for under $2 a bottle. She was blinded by her bitterness, and did everything she could to hurt him. That’s Lose/Lose.

Another common alternative is simply to think WIN. People with that mentality don’t particularly want someone else to lose, that’s irrelevant. What matters is that they get what they want. I think this is reflected sometimes in the form of capitalism we practice in our country; we justify taking people’s homes or land or whatever by shrugging and saying, “that’s just the way capitalism works!” That’s WIN mentality.

The sixth paradigm of human interaction is Win/Win or No Deal. No Deal means that we can’t find a solution that would benefit us both, and so we agree to disagree agreeably – No Deal. When that option is on the table, you can say, “I only want to go for Win/Win. I want to win and I want you to win. Let’s work toward that, and if we can’t get there, let’s agree that we won’t make a deal at all.”

Dr. Covey tells us that it’s important to realize that not all decisions need to be Win/Win, even when the Emotional Bank Account is high. Again, the key is the relationship and the amount of trust that’s built between two people. When you trust someone, you are more likely to trust the decisions they make when they don’t involve you.

Here’s a little assignment for you this week, if you choose. Identify three key relationships in your life. Think about the balance of your Emotional Bank Account with each of them. Then think about some simple ways you can make a deposit in those accounts. Then do one or two of those things. See how it feels! Is it enough to balance against what you withdraw?

Think Win/Win is really all about love, isn’t it? Dr. Covey writes, “when we truly love others without condition, without strings, we help them feel secure and safe and validated and affirmed in their essential worth, identity, and integrity.” 

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