Protect Relationships: Learn The Win-Win Game

Solving problems without increasing conflict.

Relationships are so important to us.  The relationship may be with a spouse, a child, a friend, a coworker.  And most relationships at times involve conflict.  We wish they didn’t, but they do.  How do we resolve conflict with an important relationship, without “giving in?



Improving our communication, and improving our negotiation skills will improve our relationships.

Giving in, or turning the other cheek, sounds good, but if done too much it results in resentment, and in severe cases, to depression. In any case giving in, as a habitual response, wounds the relationship.

When there is a difference of opinion or interests there are some basic principles that will help to resolve the conflict without one side or the other “giving in.”

Some basic rules:

Sit on the same side of the table, both look at the problem together.

Look at the problem as a win win challenge.

Have you ever made the mistake of viewing a problem with your spouse, for example as a Win-Lose situation?  “If my spouse wins this argument, I will lose it.”  Or, “If you win, I will lose.”

We don’t like to lose. None of us does.   To lose means to lose face, lose power, be one down in the relationship, give up something that we want or need for our own success or our own comfort.

Stephen Covey, in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People described the outcomes of these arguments or relationship problems.

1.  Win – Lose  I win, you lose. In this situation, I get what I want, or what I need, you are the one who loses out who loses face, who “backs down.”  I get the gold, you get the lead.  The advantage to the Winner? If I am the winner, I get what I want, and I may have boosted my self esteem because of the win. But there are disadvantages for the Winner as well: Resentment will build up in the other person and  the relationship will be damaged. More problems may result in the future because of the defeat of one of the parties.

Resentment Builds Up When Someone Loses an Argument.

Resentment Builds Up When Someone Loses an Argument.

2.  Lose-Lose.  I don’t get what I want, but you don’t get what you want either.  So I have the satisfaction that I have stopped your success.  This may have hurt me or may have reduced my esteem.  The disadvantage is that you have lost a a sense of accomplishment and success. Both persons in the relationship will feel some resentment.  The relationship is almost certain to have been damaged.

3.  Lose – Win.  I don’t get what I want, you do.  I will lose, and let you win. This can be out of generosity or caring, or it can be out of frustration or fatigue.  In the first case, you are being caring, perhaps for a child, or for someone close to you who is in need.  It could be someone who you want to help feel better.

When it is done out of frustration, there has been an ongoing argument, there has been no resolution, and you just give up.  Eventually you will be more angry, and you will have lost some esteem.

When it is done out of fatigue the situation is similar: perhaps less arguing, but a long time without a resolution, and one party just gives in.

The problem with this situation, even if it occurs out of caring, is that it can result in a sense of victimhood (“I always have to give in, I never get my way.”) or low self esteem (“My role is to make everybody else happy.”) The long term results of this position can be anger, reduced satisfaction in the relationship, depression, and loss of health.

A man smiling, holding out his hand

Win-Win Means That We Both Came Out Better Than If We Hadn’t Talked.

4.  Win – Win. We both figure out a way to solve the problem so that both parties are satisfied.  Satisfied doesn’t mean you get exactly what you want, but you are both better off than if you hadn’t reached the resolution to the problem.

The advantages of this are that the relationship is protected and even enhanced, there is increased knowledge between both parties, and in the long run the relationship is enriched.  Self esteem is enhanced.For more specific examples of how to do this, see the sections on Effective Win-Win Problem Solving and Five Tips For Getting to Win-Win Negotiating.