3 Principles of Win-Win Relationships

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Win-win relationships are not easy and they don’t happen overnight—they take extra time to cultivate.

A win-win is when both sides experience a positive outcome and it could possibly turn out better than either side can imagine.

A win-lose is when only one side sees the positive outcome.

Undelivered and withheld communications can have disastrous outcomes on relationships—it costs you close connections, intimacy, and productivity. It takes time to build win-win relationships. It is best to take on the attitude of what can I do to make a positive deposit into a relationship and build a connection.

Stephen Covey teaches us to deal directly with people problems as they occur to keep relationships healthy. The crux of win-win relationships is to separate the people from the problem. You must base the relationship on accurate perceptions, appropriate emotions and clear communication.


PERCEPTION is understanding the way the other person thinks. It is about being alert, aware, and accurate of your own perception and the other person’s perception or point of view.

As you communicate, your perception can be enhanced by a few simple steps:

  • Put yourself in their shoes. Experience the world from the other persons point of view.
  • Be careful not to deduce their intentions from your fears.
  • Take responsibility for your problems and do not blame others.
  • Discuss each other’s perceptions. Make sure you have an accurate assessment of the situation or problem in front of you.
  • Give them a stake in the outcome; have them participate in the process.


EMOTIONS need to be recognized and addressed as necessary.

Maintain control of your emotions. Be aware of what you’re feeling, and observe the expressions and behaviors of the other side. This is valuable information which can help you understand their underlying concerns.

Be extremely mindful when entering a dialogue when you or the other person is triggered and in an emotional state. Emotions can cloud your judgment.

The following are guidelines for dealing with emotions:

  • Recognize and understand emotions, yours and theirs.
  • Acknowledge emotions, and make them a focus of discussion if necessary.
  • Provide a safe place for people to speak their truth free of judgement.
  • Do not react in kind to emotional outbursts.
  • Allow yourself space between the notes at least 24 hours before responding.
  • Keep healthy boundaries.


COMMUNICATION is not always easy, even between two people who have known each other for years.

There are two major challenges to good communication. First, sometimes we are too busy thinking about their next rebuttal rather than hearing what is being said. Second, words and ideas can be misunderstood.

To improve communication, here are some proven psychological techniques:

  • Listen actively and knowledge what is being said. Clarity is king.
  • Seek first to understand and then to be understood.
  • Speak to be understood, and reduce outside distractions by keeping confidences and communication in private.
  • Speak about yourself, not about them. Use first person.
  • Be careful not to react; think before you speak, then speak for a purpose.
  • Be curious and listen fully before jumping to conclusions


PREVENTION works best. People problems are minimized when we take immediate action to resolve misunderstanding.

Begin by separating the people from the problem. Get them unstuck and out of their own paradigms. Concentrate on the mutual interests. Understand the differences in styles (positions) then you can be soft on the people and hard on the problem.

Are You Ready For Win-win?

In summary, the goal is to create options and focus on the resolution. Remember, the meaning of your communication is the response you get. If you are not getting the response that you want to create win-win, it is time to try on a new approach.

Dr. Barry Morguelan, a highly-respected surgeon and creator of the Energy for Success, states that, “A real win-win is when both people get to have their ice cream cones.”

What are you willing to do to go the extra mile and create win-win relationships?

Ellen Miller

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2 Responses to “3 Principles of Win-Win Relationships”
  1. We have been working with the oxymoron, “interdepartmental collaboration” for two decades using a team building exercise called The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. The goal of the game is, “To mine as much gold as We Can” but tabletops generally assume a “My Team, My Team, My Team” kind of operational paradigm.

    It is difficult for teams of people to collaborate. The push for competition and winning is strong. But when one team in an organization wins, there are generally lots of teams that “lost,” teams that could have had better performance in a collaborative mode. Sharing resources and information, sharing best practices, and operating in a more selfless manner would certainly help to optimize results in a game as well as the workplace.

    Win-Win is a great theme, but getting it to show up in actual inter-team situations is a pretty difficult aspect of changing organizational culture. Our school systems and so many other things simply teach competitiveness, and our expectations and measurements and feedback systems generally reward individual results rather than organizational ones. Look at the data on engagement to see how bad things really are in so many organizations.

    We need to choose — to consciously decide — that we need to do things differently to improve how things really work in most organizations.

    Have fun out there!


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