Confused businessman looking at his colleague over eyeglasses during discussion of some points of paper

Productive Conflict

Understand that our society trains us to enter conflict with a “Win-Lose” mindset. Conflict is inherently competitive in this methodology, and someone stands to win, while someone else must therefore lose. But what happens if we enter a conflict situation with a “win-win” approach? With “win-win”, you end up with both (or all) parties saying  “okay, look, what is it you really need? Here’s what I need. How can we craft a “win-win”?” There is a shared goal for all parties to get something positive out of the conversation. This is different from a “compromise-compromise” approach where no one really wins or loses, there is simply an unsatisfiying conclusion to a disagreement.

With “win-win”, the approach is the solution. Both parties are going to work diligently to make sure that all parties at the table achieve some version of what it is they seek.  Obviously, it’s going to be difficult in some instances where you have complete 180 degree differences of opinion on key issues and it is challenging to find common ground. But ultimately, most of the time you’re going to find that when you take into account what the other person needs for it to be a win and strive to find a way for them to achieve that without invalidating what you need to accomplish to claim a win, it frequently allows for everyone to win.

Of course, the problem is there’s another alternative to those three methods and that would be, you guessed it, “lose-lose”. This scenario happens when the person who’s in a “win-lose” situation realizes “Oh my gosh! I’m gonna lose! Well, if I’m losing, I’ll take everyone down with me.” Therefore actively creating a “lose-lose” scenario.

So the very first thing to do in conflict is decide, “look, are we in a ‘win-win’ here? Alright, let’s work this through.” And a lot of times that can be time consuming, but isn’t it worth it? One of the nice things about understanding and deciding on the approach is that you’re actively recognizing, “Okay, we’re going to be disagreeing here, but our ultimate goal is for me to see what I can do to actually help you with your outcome,, and you’re doing the same for me. And now we’re working in tandem.” So the goal should be to enter conflict with the idea of it being Productive Conflict and providing an opportunity for all parties to exit the conflict able to claim a “win”.

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