The Art of Strengths Coaching

W is for Win-Win Solutions

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Imagine that you have been asked to help people to resolve differences between them.

This could be a married couple that are experiencing difficulties, departments that are blaming each other or some other kinds of warring parties.

Your aim will be to help people to, as far as possible, find a win-win solution. Win-lose creates ongoing problems, whilst lose-lose spells trouble for everybody.

Let’s explore how it may be possible to aim for a win-win solution.

You can make sure the conditions are
in place for finding a win-win solution

Two conditions must be in place before it is possible to solve deep differences.

People must want to solve the conflict.

People must be prepared to work hard to find, as far as possible, win-wins.

Timing is everything. Many conflicts only get resolved when the parties are exhausted.

For example, couples feel weary from fighting a divorce, terrorists became too old or tired to fight, employers and strikers are exhausted after an industrial dispute.

People get tired of the negative energy. They are then more willing to sit down and find positive solutions.

Before getting involved in any conflict resolution, it is important to ask the following questions:

Are people ready to work together?

Do they really want to solve the problem? Remember, some people are addicted to conflict.

Are people prepared to co-operate to find,
as far as possible, a win-win solution?

How high is their motivation to do this on a scale 0 – 10? People need to score at least a 7+ to have a chance of producing success.

Are people ready to focus on how
things can be better in the future?

This is crucial. Some people want to simply argue about the past and allocate blame. Whilst it may be vital to admit mistakes, the key is to focus on how to create a positive future.

Providing people want to solve the problem, it is then possible to move onto the next step.

 You can clarify what each party
wants and build on common ground

Start by clarifying what each person or each party wants. Focus on what people have in common, rather than the differences.

Some may try to draw you into arguing about the differences, but return to the similarities.

When working with divorcing parents, for example, you will start by focusing on the shared aims they have in common. They may get into arguments, but both will probably say they want the best for their children.

You can then build on this shared aim. There will be lots of time later to explore the differences.

There are many models for helping people to build on or find common ground. One approach is to encourage people to focus on The Third Side.

Here is a short introduction to that approach. You can discover more via the following link.

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People can get into difficulties because they sit opposite each other and fight for their own agendas.

Each party says the equivalent of: “I am right,” or “Our side is right.” “You are wrong.” These are the First and Second Sides.

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People are more likely to solve things if they can sit side by side and look together towards a Third Side.

This Third Side can be the greater goal, the picture of success or whatever.

The common goal may be, for example, the children’s welfare after a divorce, the team’s mission or the kind of world we want to pass on to future generations.

If you are a facilitator, you can sit side by side with the interested parties and encourage them to look together at a compelling Third Side.

Providing you are clear on the agreed overall goals, you can then say things like:

“These are the goals to achieve. This is the picture of success. These are the benefits of achieving the goals.

“Is this something you want to work towards achieving?

“If so, how can you do your best to contribute to achieving the goals? How can you help other people to achieve the goals?”

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Mediators create a safe environment in which people feel at ease. They listen to what each person perceives as the challenge. They then aim to build a common agenda.

They keep bringing people back to the ‘What’ – the real results they want to achieve. This can be challenging, because people often want to get into arguing about the ‘How’.

The key is to keep returning to the ‘What’. This calls for following certain rules. It is important:

To show respect and recognise the authenticity of each person’s feelings because everybody must feel they have been heard.

To encourage people to look to the future, rather than fight about the past.

To get people to be super specific about the desired outcome by asking: “What are the real results you want to achieve?”

To encourage the parties to put the challenge in positive terms.

For example: “How can we work together to achieve success?” Rather than: “Why can’t we stop fighting?”

To build on the common ground, get some quick success and begin to build confidence.

You can use the following framework to map out: a) The specific things each party wants; b) The shared results they want to achieve; c) The potential differences.

It is then important to build on what people have in common. Help people to get some early successes, create confidence and build trust.

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You can then keep working until you find,
as far as possible, win-win solutions

You can now move onto the differences. Start by establishing clarity. Looking at each difference in turn, clarify what each person-party wants.

There are many models for helping people to find creative solutions to challenges. One approach is to use the 3C model. This invites people to focus on clarity, creativity and concrete results. Here is the overall model.

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Stay calm and invite people to use their creativity. When it comes to the sticking points, keep asking:

How can we find a win-win solution?

Be patient. People are incredibly creative, so keep asking this question until they solve the problem.

If appropriate, you can share possible ideas, but it is vital to show that you respect each person’s agenda.

If tempers rise, take a break and have a cooling off period. Return to the beginning and establish if people still want to solve the problem. If so, resume the exploration.

Keep going until they find, as far as possible, a win-win solution. Again, build on the good work by getting an early success. You can encourage people:

To set clear goals.

To make clear contracts about each person’s contribution.

To get concrete results.

Success breeds success and mutual confidence. People can then move onto the next topic where they want to find a win-win solution.

Let’s return to the example where you may have been asked to help with a difficult situation. Focus on one specific difference and try completing the following sentences.

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Sounds easy in theory, but it is obviously much harder in daily life. If people want to solve the problem, however, it is often possible to find creative solutions. The basic rules apply.

People will be more motivated to find positive solutions when they feel the pluses will outweigh the minuses.

People need to feel that they will get more pleasure and less pain in the future.

People will then apply their creativity to find and implement positive solutions.

So how do painful problems get solved? There are several answers.

Some don’t, people go on fighting. Some do because people lose interest. They get tired, accept the differences or move on with their lives. Some do because people work hard at solving the problem.

You can focus on situations that fall into the latter category. Equipping people to find win-win solutions can provide them with a tool for life.

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