HABIT 4: I’m trying to “Think Win/Win”

By Chris Sprague


The concept of Win/Win, the 4 th habit in Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, provided an interesting insight to me. This is the concept that in order to get the best results – at work, in interpersonal relationships, etc. we all need to win. Instead of thinking of life as a competition (I win, you lose - or just, I win), we should think of it as a collaboration (I win AND you win). Instead of personally trying to get the best results regardless of others, we should persevere and communicate in order to create the best output for all, not just for ourselves. This can create the most productive situation over the long term.


Habit 4 - Think Win-Win

S. Covey refers to six different paradigms of interaction:

  • Win/Win
  • Win/Lose
  • Lose/Win
  • Lose/Lose
  • Win
  • Win/Win or No Deal

We don’t always see that our way is not the best use of time and energy. I myself have often felt like a peacekeeper and would sometimes find it easier to let someone with whom I was disagreeing have their way as long as it wasn’t too disadvantageous to me (or the world) or to my values. I’d know that I can still respect myself, even if I don’t appear productive to the rest of the world.

I’ve learned from Stephen Covey’s book that this is actually practicing a Win/Lose philosophy. That is: you win, I lose. As a peacekeeping philosophy, it can be effective in the short term. However, it may not be the best for society (or the specific workplace, or the relationship) as a whole. In addition, a lingering sense of resentment (or even just a bad taste about the solution) may not be noticed in the short term, but can deteriorate the relationship over time. Better to have the courage and commitment to let my voice be heard, and work harder towards a Win/Win solution.

The way towards finding a Win/Win solution requires a few things.

  • You need to start with the insight to know (and to value equally) the real desired goal, OF BOTH
    PARTIES. Both parties need to recognize and speak their own needs/desires and to truly hear
    the other party’s side.
  • You need to realize that there is room for both to win. Maybe redefining WIN is required - it is not always about dollars, for example.
  • You need to have a healthy trusting relationship, in which both parties feel equally respected and appreciated, in order to also have the courage to speak up.
  • You may need to persevere and work a bit longer than you expected in order to find a Win/Win solution.

I myself am still working on this. I don’t always even see that there might be a better way of dealing
with a situation. Sometimes I don’t have the patience…..But at least my eyes have been opened a bit
more, and I am working towards more Win/Win solutions in my life, when I can.