Working together means learning how to work out our differences.
Frank wants one thing.
Jean wants another.
Highly successful people are skilled at negotiating solutions and moving on to the next thing.
Unfortunately we are deeply biased toward a win/lose outcome – I win – you lose.
I prefer to work toward a win/win or no deal outcome. Unless we both win there is no sense in moving forward together – we’ll either wind up in court or tearing each other’s face off.
From time immemorial our survival, indeed our well-being – psychologically and physically – has depended on our ability to cooperate.
War, divorce and other conflicts are generated out of people’s insistence on having it “my way or the highway.”
A win-win or no deal is the way of people with a high level of emotional intelligence. That certainly sounds sensible. In our working – and intimate – relationships, it feels right to insist that agreements satisfy all parties or lets not play with each other.
An emotionally intelligent principle but so tough to achieve. Why is it so hard?
I believe the answer lies in the problem of the lack of ego development.
Contrary to popular opinion I think a person with a big ego is one whose personality “can pay the rent” of living together harmoniously and productively with others. They have clear boundaries founded in an ethical set of values.
A person with a shriveled or underdeveloped ego is one who is constantly on the defensive and who has an attitude that the best defense is to be offensive.
Little egos struggle with isolation and worry about their insignificance. Struggle and a sense of isolation generate copious amounts of anxiety. One way they try to put their finger in the dike to hold back the flood of anxieties is by trying to puff up their presence in the world. They build networks of friends, family, and colleagues. They rise in the hierarchy at work in an attempt to become “king, or queen of the dunghill.” They acquire assets, property, wealth. They drive harder and harder for success and recognition.
To feel good about ourselves we must be able to look back and know that we stood for something that promotes human values.
First, we must be develop self-awareness, that primary ingredient in emotional intelligence. We need to be aware of how our behaviours affect others. The second task is to discipline ourselves to be able and willing to self-manage. That is, to be disciplined enough to be able to behave in a way that has the probability that we are moving toward a solution that results in a win-win – or no deal.
Let’s say you and I are determined to do right in our own eyes. Rather than rip each other off with no thought for our relationship going forward, we want an outcome that benefits us both – or we will not go ahead with it. Then we go about creating it, and ethically dealing with the inevitable future obstacles.
Our third discipline is to develop empathy.
Empathy is the ability and willingness to attempt to understand, acknowledge and accept the feelings of another. Listening for understanding of the other is the most powerful form of empathy. It does not necessarily mean I agree with you.
Consider what we usually do during an disagreement. We interrupt, talk a mile a minute,while trying to force the other person to agree with us. We try to persuade by lecturing. That is the opposite of empathy, the result being an escalation of the argument.
Rather than jumping in, making our case and explaining the underlying reasons, we can start by being curious about the other person’s perspective. We can express interest in the other person’s needs and thoughts. We can ask questions for clarification.
As we hear more, we can check our assumptions with the other person. We listen and repeat back what the other has said before speaking. We keep listening until the other person acknowledges that we have understood them. Only then do we air our own views.
This strategy can result in astonishing progress toward a win-win or no deal outcome. Sometimes the other person will agree with you before you have explained your point-of-view. Or you both realize this is a no deal.
This leads into the fourth skill of emotional intelligence – the ability and willingness to play well with others.
The secret in playing well with others lies in the power of listening, acknowledging, accepting and being curious about the other.
Listening builds bridges of goodwill between us. We strengthen our connections with each other.
In connecting we relieve our own anxiety producing struggles and isolation more effectively than when we try beat each other into submission. And its more likely that if I voluntarily help you, you are very likely to want to return the favour.
The final element in the journey to win-win or no deal is leader assertiveness.
I have to know my values and assert them in my negotiations with others. If I give in too easily, I become a doormat on the entry into a deal and it is likely that others will begin to take of advantage of me. The ugly truth is that doormats always make others pay a high price for the pain of being shuffled on.
Do you have what it takes to negotiate toward a win-win or no deal?
Dr, Jim Sellner, PhD., DipC.
Leadership for Einsteins: How Smart Leaders Bring Out the Genius in People
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