It was a very sad day last Monday (July 16th) when we said goodbye to Steve Covey. I have found his books – “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and the “8th Habit” – to be great influences, on both myself and my work with clients.

Many of you will have read the 7 habits book, but for those of you who have not, habits 4 to 6 are focused on what we can achieve working together rather than alone. Habit 4 is to “Think win-win”, when you enter discussions or negotiations with others. Habit 5 is to “Seek first to understand and then be understood”. Habit 6 is to “Synergize”, where the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts (in essence 1 + 1 can be greater than 2).

So in negotiations, meetings and discussions, you will find that you are more likely to find strong long term solutions, if you approach these discussions with a mind set focused on both parties achieving a positive way forward for each of them.  This is not based on competition or a win-lose / lose-win mentality, but a more sophisticated way of reaching agreement.

How may times have you found yourself at what seems to be polar opposite positions in a discussion with someone else? It appears impossible to reach a place where you can both feel you have your needs met and a result you can both walk away from with satisfaction.

One of the key issues can be that we are using the wrong language.

If you are in a discussion and you use the expression “I see what you are saying, BUT …..” you have just negated anything positive you may have said in the first part of the sentence!

Try and avoid the word BUT at all cost. Try using the word AND instead. “I see what you are saying, AND it would be more beneficial to build on this by …..”. This will do more to develop rapport and a place where you are looking for a win-win position. 

We need to look for areas of agreement in terms of outcomes and we can test these by using scenarios such as “Just suppose we were to …….”. Try and explore what the intent is behind the required outcome, to get a deeper understanding of where people are coming from.

Another key issue can be that we are discussing or arguing at too lower a level of detail. We are stuck in the specifics, with no way out. If you are either helping two people reach agreement or you are involved yourself, try raising the discussion to a higher level. Try moving the discussion up through levels by asking questions such as “For what purpose?”, “What is the intention behind this?”.

For example if two people are pro and anti nuclear weapons and you ask these questions of each, you can keep raising the level until you have common ground. In this example it may well be that both are ultimately looking for world peace. You can then attempt to draw out a win-win position by testing scenarios and outcomes. For example “If we were to achieve world peace, then anyway we achieve this for you would be okay?” … “So what if we ……”

You can then move back down levels, ensuring you keep agreement as you move back down into specifics.

This is fairly extreme example and one that would be more difficult to resolve easily, but the principles hold for smaller disputes that will be much more easy to resolve in this way.

Try these techniques next time you are involved in a disagreement and see how much easier it is to reach agreement. 

Most importantly though, work on approaching more of your relationship and negotiations from a win-win mind set.