If you live in society, you couldn't but ask yourself every once in a while how to resolve conflicts. It might be in your personal life regarding a conflict with a friend or a member of your family or in your professional life when encountering a conflict with a peer, employee or a client. Indeed, wherever there are people, there are conflicts. Why? Well, that's a subject to a different post; let's just say that fundamental human traits turn humans into 'conflict prone' creatures. You can read more about these traits and how they are a manifestation of our ego in the book The Romance of Ego & Conflict.
So, how to resolve conflict? As the title of this post says, not using the Win-Win approach. I've been training and consulting people all over the world on how to resolve conflicts and how to better negotiate, so what I'm about to share with you is based on thousands of hours of consultation. Win-Win the approach that advocates an 'everybody wins' attitude is not the highway of how to resolve conflicts or any other difficult situations.
Let's do a short exercise. Recall the last 'juicy' – in the sense of taking you to the edge emotionally wise – conflict you had. Relive this conflict again; go in your head through the events and focus your attention on the thoughts and feeling that governed your mind in the midst of the conflict. Now, when you're re-experiencing these emotions and thoughts, try thinking about a collaborative – Win-Win like – solution. Can you see yourself creating such a solution with the person you're having the conflict with?
Most people, and you might so yourself, recoil from even thinking of collaborating with the person they are having the conflict with. The other side threatens, makes us angry, insulted us or any other negative feeling that accompanies a conflict, so the collaborative door is shut.
"Yes," you may say to me "indeed during the storm of conflict we can't think collaboratively, yet when we cool down a bit, we can then apply the Win-Win approach". This is indeed an option yet, I've been a witness to too many situations that it took people years to calm down and some haven't cooled down even when years have elapsed. Should we put business opportunities, relationships and, most of all, our good feelings on hold until we cool down? And what if it'll take us years to cool down? In addition, without proper conflict resolution skills, when you eventually cool down and try to create a Win-Win solution, there is a very good chance you'll compromise in the name of collaboration. That's why, so many times people associate the question 'how to resolve conflict' with both Win-Win and compromises…
What I'm trying to say is that Win-Win doesn't align with the process humans undergo during conflicts and tough negotiations. The survival state of mind we are characterized by during threatening situations, and conflicts are regarded by our mind as a threatening situation, eradicates any collaborative thought. Hence, Win-Win can't serve as a stable starting point on which one can build a solid conflict management process.
Still not convinced? What about situations containing power imbalances? In these kinds of situations, the stronger side might not have the incentive to create a Win-Win solution. Being the stronger among the two, he's likely to 'pull the blanket closer to his side of the bed' creating a solution which is closer to a Win – Lose solution rather than to a Win – Win one.
I would like to emphasize that it's not collaborative solutions that I go against, it's the collaborative state of mind, represented by the Win – Win approach that I claim doesn't fit to the human state of mind during conflicts. Tragically, we are unable to think in a Win – Win way when we need it the most – during conflicts and tough negotiations.
"So," you may rightfully confront me "what do you suggest?" Well, I offer a model that I call I Win which rides one's selfish interest of maximizing one's own utility. Most personal or professional relationships are characterized with some level of interdependency, so maximizing one's utility must acknowledge the other side's interests. Notice that the motivation for such recognition is not collaborative thought but rather a selfish one.
The I win state of mind might indeed lead to Win – Win solutions when such a solution is in the best interest of a party. In a matter of fact, the selfish motivation higher the chance such a solution will indeed be created, yet in situations characterized by power imbalance it will 'allow' the stronger side to use it's excessive power over the other side.
What I've described in this post is the tip of the iceberg. Understanding the flaws of Win – Win will require a plunge into the 'rabbit hole' of human characteristics. Being able to utilize the I win so it'll take you to where you truly want to go, requires a better understanding of how one should define his 'win' and on the methodology to properly use the I win model.
For more information about how to resolve conflicts in general, the flaws of Win – Win and the supremacy I win methodology over the Win - Win model, you are invited to read two of my books: The I win Negotiation & Conflict Approach and The Romance of Ego & Conflict.
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