How to do Win-Win Conflict Resolution

In the last post, we discussed the various ways people handle conflict. Let’s take a closer look at the win-win approach. Because, seriously folks, don’t we all want to be part of such a process?

Don’t feel bad if you can’t remember a time when you were part of a win-win conflict resolution. This type of process doesn’t happen as often as it could for a number of reasons.

  • People don’t know how to do it.
  • In conflict situations, more often than not, people are busy reacting rather than thinking.
  • The process is dead in the water if both people aren’t committed to making it work.

Sedona, Arizona - Guenette photo

Step one

  • Identify the problem and clarify our unmet needs.

This is not as easy as it sounds. Everything in this step is about preparation. First, we have to admit there is a problem and that we are a part of that problem. Then we have to figure out what need or goal is not getting met. Sometimes there are pesky relational needs submerged just below the surface like the ice burg that sank the Titanic. Teasing apart these various threads can be a challenge.

CBC foyer - Toronto - Bruce Witzel photo

Step two

  • Make a date to discuss the issue.

This is an important step. Time set aside to talk about a specific issue honours the importance of the process and allows the other person adequate time to prepare. Win-win is almost never achieved by springing it on another person like a clown screaming boo at a child’s party. It is wise to be prepared for a degree of hand-wringing as the other person imagines that making a date to discuss something quite obviously means the world is soon to come crashing down. Outright hostility is also common. Here the thought process is more like – I’ll get you before you have a chance to get me or talking about things always ends badly. This process will no doubt be new and people have a difficult time with new. Be reassuring and patient.

Horse & Lion - Getty Villa - Bruce Witzel photo

Step three

When the time for the discussion has arrived and you are sitting across from the other person, it is important to clearly describe the problem in ‘I’ language. If not, all the work in step one will have been wasted.

Use the clear message format. Plug in the results of your own step one thinking. Let’s try for an example of a fairly loaded issue from the bedroom – one that might be worthy of a win-win, conflict resolving discussion.

Describe behaviour: When we’re making love and you insist I wear certain things or get in specific positions or pose in certain ways …

Interpretation: I get the idea that you’re trying to recreate some type of fantasy sex …

Feeling: and I feel like it doesn’t even matter that you’re with me. I could be anyone at all as long as I look and do the right things.

Consequences: It ends up all feeling so scripted to me and I go cold inside and have to fake any response at all.

Intention: I want our sex life to more spontaneous. I want there to be room for me to be me.

Bruce Witzel photo

Step four

Now for the really hard part – we must give the other person time to express a point of view. We must listen. During this stage we might try to get feedback on what the other person heard us saying. When we are confident that we have been heard (remember, this does not necessarily mean agreed with) and we have listened to the other person, it is time to move on.

Step five

Together with the other person we will negotiate a solution to the problem. We generate solution options and choose what we can both agree upon. A good way to do this is with a brainstorm activity. Jot down all the ideas – and I do mean all the ideas – take a good look at the choices and decide which idea has the best chance of success.

Step six

Remember to follow-up on how the solution chosen has worked out. Fine tuning may be required.

Garden Statue - Bruce Witzel photo

Why people won’t consider win-win

It sounds too good to be true.

  • No its not, try it and see.

It’s too elaborate and time-consuming.

  • Practice makes perfect. The more people practice this approach the easier and faster it becomes.

It’s too rationale. There’s no room for emotion.

  • Thinking isn’t negative and in terms of conflict, over reliance on emotional responses can and does lead us astray.

Others won’t get on board with the process. I’d be wasting my time.

  • It is up to you to try and convince them to give the process a chance. Perhaps the other person has not been following along with The Saying What Matters blog through all these great posts on effective communication the way you have. Once again be patient, reassuring and clear. Even getting close to the mark with win-win conflict resolution is so refreshing and satisfying that other people in your life will want to be part of the process.

Peace crane @ Manzanar - sitting on the fence

About francisguenette

Writer, blogger and author of the Crater Lake Series.
This entry was posted in Communication skills, Counselling, Mental health, Photography, Relationship, Self Help, Teaching and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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