Seeking Win-Win: More than a cliche?

Abhishek Paul
2 min readMar 7, 2019

Seeking win-win ha become so much of a cliche in most conversations, that I missed the deeper truths / assumptions that Stephen Covey sought to convey.

Win-win makes sense only if the underlying paradigm is that of abundance, else it will either seem illogical or frustrating / stressful (you feel like a martyr). Neither of which are good reasons for anyone to try it.

The true test of win-win is when interacting with someone from a “win-lose” paradigm. This person is acting from a scarcity mindset. How do you convince someone like this without becoming a doormat yourself?

The answer involves a counter intuitive strategy, you allow them to win the first few times. You then help them see the increased benefit of a win-win. The arm wrestling analogy of Covey is an eye opener in realizing this.

If things still do not progress, the last resort is not taking up “win-lose” ourselves (make them pay) or “lose-lose” (mutual self destruction), but rather walk away with a “no deal”. This involves explaining clearly that unless both feel they gain something from the interaction, you would rather walk away than force either one to commit to something they’re not happy with.

Operating consistently from “win-win” requires a) Clarity on what a win is for us, and b) Understanding / empathy to figure out what would the other person’s wants be in the interaction.

So behind the cliche lies a need for clarity, empathy and a paradigm of abundance. I just had to look deeper.