Prick nine out of ten business gurus, and they’ll bleed “win-win.”
You’ve heard their advice: “If you give the other guy most of what he wants, he’ll give you most of what you want.”
Sounds great! All fair and square, right?
Well, I swore by the “win-win” principle for years and never questioned it. But I also typically left the bargaining table with less than I wanted. Worse yet, I left with less than I needed. And the other dude always sauntered off happily with his wheelbarrow of chips.
I finally figured out why:
I entered each deal taking the moral high ground. I was looking out for both of us. You know, win-win.
My worthy adversary, however, wasn’t playing for “win-win.” He was playing for the whole damn enchilada.
In other words, we weren’t using the same rulebook. So even though I had the moral high ground, he’d taken the bare-fisted, street-fighting high ground. I was ready to settle for 50 percent in the deal. He wanted it all.
Now don’t get me wrong. I still think “win-win” is ideal. Life should be a cooperative arena, not a competitive one. But that only works if both parties come together with that standard in mind.
Some suggestions for using “win-win” successfully:
- Know with whom you’re dealing. Understand the rulebook they play from. Remember that you can walk away any time.
- Always go to the bargaining table hoping for a “win-win” result, but never take it for granted.
- Embrace “win-win” as a lover, not a marriage partner. Love the principle, but don’t be so committed to it that you lose flexibility in your negotiation.
- Remember that “win-win” doesn’t have to be 50-50. “Fair” is whatever two people agree it is. That may be 70-30 — with you, I hope, getting the 70. If the other party is fat and happy with 30, hey, then that’s fair!