Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Get What You Want with Win-Win Conflict Resolution

Can you remember the last time you were at odds with someone? You wanted something that the other person considered unacceptable. You both felt justified, producing a conflict that had the potential to block success and damage relationships.

When someone contends against you, it can be hard to realize that in most cases, conflicts can be resolved in a way that allows both people to get what they need. The key is for both people to back off their demands and search for a mutually beneficial solution. This means focusing instead on the needs, not the demands. Then the parties can creatively search for solutions that will address both their needs at the same time.

The next time you're nose-to-nose with someone, instead of giving in or trying to get your way at all costs, consider this creative win-win approach. It involves these four steps...

Step 1. Ask about the other person’s need. Listen carefully to what the other person wants, but more importantly, probe for why—what need will this demand satisfy? Check to make sure you understand.

Step 2. State your own need. Not your demand, but the need that your demand satisfies. Explain clearly how what you want will satisfy your need. Check to be sure you were understood.

Step 3. Brainstorm win-win solutions. Without further discussion or critique, together create a list of new options that will satisfy both needs at the same time.

Step 4. Jointly identify which options are acceptable to both of you. Discuss their pros and cons and select the one most acceptable to both of you.

In this process, you don’t bargain or compromise. You don’t give up something to get something. Both parties get what they need.

If you notice when other people are blocked by conflict, you can help them resolve it by encouraging them to follow the four steps.


- When you realize someone wants you to do something that you don’t want to do, take responsibility for initiating the four-step conflict resolution process to find a win-win solution.

- Use patience, consideration and tact while listening to others and describing your own needs.

- Help people in conflict listen to each other, identify areas of agreement and consider new options.

- Encourage them to dialogue and listen effectively while resolving the conflict.

Does this approach really work? Yes, it does. It has worked every time I've used it. I once used the technique to help two executives who had held grudges against each other for years to resolve their conflict. They shook hands and hugged each other. It's true that some conflicts don't lend themselves to this method. These are usually cases in which there are only two alternatives. The key is to have the presence of mind to consider this approach rather than getting involved in a power struggle.

Check out Part Two of this topic tomorrow, in which I give a narrative example of two people using the win-win technique to get what they need.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .

1 comment:

Doug Smith said...

As complicated as conflict resolution can be, the four steps you've described here are both manageable and practical. I've seen this type of process work time and time again.

Thanks for sharing it in a way that helps people to put it to use right away.