hands together

I pay attention to coincidences. On the plane ride back from Tennessee (spent Thanksgiving there), I went back and forth between two books: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the personal management classic by Stephen Covey and Wired for Love, a look at neuroscience and its correlation with relationships by Dr. Stan Tatkin. Both books expounded on the value of creating win/win dynamics versus competitive or autonomous ones. Not only were they talking about the same concepts but they crossed my attention at the same time.

Four days later, I saw the alien invasion movie Arrival (intuitive types will love, lots to ponder), in the middle of the film, the main character (Amy Adams) recalls a scene where she and her daughter discussed win/win situations or non-zero-sum games. I said, Weird, out loud, quietly, to myself

As I reflected on win/win, zero-sum (if you win, I lose) and competitive versus collaborative dynamics, it occurred to me that this is what our country is going through now. The United States is divided, almost equally, between those who fear losing and therefore advocate for ‘us against them’ mentality and those who want to figure out how we can all work together and mutually win.

Stephen Covey’s win/win

Win/Win is not a personality technique. It’s a total paradigm of human interaction. It comes from a character of integrity, maturity, and the Abundance Mentality. It grows out of high-trust relationships. It is embodied in agreements that effectively clarify and manage expectations as well as accomplishments. It thrives in supportive systems. — Stephen R. Covey


Stephen Covey says a win/win agreement includes a four step process:

  1. See the problem from the other point of view. Really seek to understand and to give expression to the needs of the other party.
  2. Identify the key issues and concerns involved.
  3. Determine what results would constitute a fully acceptable solution.
  4. Identify possible new options to achieve those results.

Win/Win agreements focus on results, not methods. This releases individual potential and creates synergy. Competition is not part of the win/win process. In fact, if both parties can’t have their desires met, Covey suggests the ‘No deal’ option, where both participants agree to seek alternative choices.

What win/lose looks like

Competition drives much of our lives: from sibling rivalry to grading curves in school to contests at work. We all want to be on top, or at least not at the bottom. For many people this win/lose mentality is so ingrained in their psyches, they will use power, position, possessions or personality to get their way. They believe in scarcity. To them, there is not enough love and success for everyone. They take care of themselves but often at the expense of relationships.

Win/lose relationships do not have trust built into them. If we can’t trust someone to do something we hover over them and try to control them to make sure they do what we want. If we instead trusted our partner, listened to their perspective, had a win/win agreement in place with defined results and consequences, we could relax and let them achieve the task in their own way. Then we both win.

Covey emphasizes the importance of not killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. We need those geese. We may even love them. Why would we compete with them?

Secure partners bring win/win relationships

Anchors take good care of themselves and their relationships. They expect committed partnerships to be mutually satisfying, supportive and respectful, and will not bother with unsafe or nonreciprocal relationships. — Dr. Stan Tatkin

In Wired for Love, clinician and couples therapist, Stan Tatkin, calls people who had responsive childhood caregivers, anchors. These people are able to take the security and comfort from their early primary relationships and apply it to their adult relationships.wired-for-love

There is hope for those of us who did not grow up having all of our needs met consistently. It is possible to become an ‘anchor’ through healing in other relationships such as those with therapists, mentors, coaches, dedicated friends and secure partners.

In romantic relationships, anchors or secure partners, respond quickly to signs of distress from their loved one. They want to provide relief. They aren’t afraid to admit mistakes and make amends. They share good and bad news with their partner first. The relationship is a top priority. They make an effort to learn how the other works. They make use of that collected knowledge every day.

The security such care provides gives each person in the relationship the courage and energy to handle the stresses and challenges of the outside world. A mutual win.

 Arrival and the great divide

The movie Arrival is a film about unification, not winning and losing. Spoiler alert: it’s about setting aside Arrival moviedifferences and working together. This film was released at a perfectly poignant time in our nation’s history. May enough of us have the courage and consideration to heal the great divide revealed by the presidential election through win/win practices.

How are you promoting win/win agreements within your relationships? Within your community? Do you love someone with a win/lose mentality? 

If you’d like help creating win/win relationships please contact me for relationship coaching. I’d love to help you.