We Win

If it’s a win-win situation
Then why am I feelin’ so blue
You win, I win, we lose

Kenny Chesney

It’s always interested me when people talk about “win-win” deals. The reality is that most of the people I know mean “I get what I want and you don’t have to give up much more than you want to” when they use that term.  It strikes me that taken to an extreme, the notion of “I win, you win” got us to The Civil War, as the North ended slavery (win) and the South decided to go someplace where they could preserve it (win). Of course, the collective “we” lost.

President Obama expressed what I think is a good approach to negotiating as he called for “open hearts, open minds, fair-minded words”.   Obviously, he wasn’t using business as the context, but implicit in his statement is the notion of starting from “we” and factoring in all the “me’s.”  It’s a hard thing to do, of course, and so I used to tell my folks when we’d talk about how to negotiate that they need to have a sense of their bottom line.  These are the things that are the real must-haves in the outcome.  However, keeping an open mind and listening well are the two real keys. Civil discussion helps a lot too.

The frustrating thing in this process is when one is confronted by someone on the other side of the desk who won’t listen, won’t verbalize their real needs, and won’t try to find “we.”  Those are the potential deals that might not be worth doing (they’re not all worth it, kids).  We can spend a lot of time here discussing leverage and the dozen other things that go into making a deal but to me it always comes down to starting with “we.”  “We” sit on the same side of the desk.  “We” are trying to solve a common problem and take care of a set of needs.

What’s your negotiating philosophy?  Have you ever won while “we” lost?

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