Win-win is better than win-lose

betty ming liu Inspiration, Relationships 21 Comments

Win-win — what’s that? My parents raised me to believe that the world is filled with winners and losers. By their standards, I was doing pretty good in my early  30s. After all, I had a great career as a newspaper columnist and a husband who was a catch. But something wasn’t right.

During that time, I was restless and started seeing a therapist. The shrink filled my head with shocking ideas. She said it was okay to be mad at my mother. “Negotiation” wasn’t a dirty word and neither was the word “money.”

She also told me that life isn’t about creating winners and losers. Instead, the goal is win-win, a mantra that has completely changed my outlook. Differences of opinion and outright arguments no longer focused on forcing people to agree with me. My honor was no longer at stake.

Win-win transforms relationships 

Finally, I could stop scheming about ways to beat out the other guy.  No more panicking about landing on the bottom. What a relief to discover the greater goal of sharing the love. Now, I really enjoy the challenge of sizing up situations and making them work on multiple levels. On the ride to happiness, I want to take along as many people as possible. Does that sound too cheese-y? Well, too bad!  :)

Even my divorce benefitted from win-win. When we first split up 12 years ago, I guess we both felt like losers. But couples counseling got us past the anger to a reasonably amicable relationship. Neither of us got everything we wanted; that’s never possible. Still, we resolved enough issues to proceed together on friendly terms in raising our kid. Win-win!

And speaking of our lovely 16-year-old daughter….living with a teenager poses endless opportunities to lose-lose. Quite frankly, I doubt she’ll ever change the cats’ litter box or keep her room clean on a regular basis. And yet, there are pluses.

Win-win improves quality of life

My baby does her own laundry and helps out with car payments. She’s doing well in school and staying out of trouble. The more I’m able to see how beautifully she’s growing up, the more she matures so beautifully. Okay — honestly? While we still yell at each other (actually, it’s mostly me yelling), we are betting better and better at keeping our connection on track.

Of course, the wins can be hard to come by or even impossible. The larger lifescape has us in a universe infected by poverty, pollution, war and other unforgivable evils. Which makes it even more important to pursue the daily purity of win-win moments. And I’m going for one win at a time.  xo


Comments 21

  1. Post

    aw, shirley — thanks. when i first learned of win-win, i was already established in my journalism career. then i took off to do the mommy thing, get divorced and teach. now i’m back in a full-time journalism job after a 16-year haitus. i see this as a second chance to really do win-win in the workplace, right at the start of a new career. having the wisdom of old(er) age is a plus. i hope.

  2. I think the best indicator of “winning” in life is how much love we’ve been given in return for the love we have given others. Its the only thing we get to take with us after all, when we leave this life. Everything else is just stage dressing.

  3. One win at a time…thank you!
    I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately. I needed that.
    Small successes mount up to big victories. In that case, I can take all this added pressure off myself. I’ve heard so many times that Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was any great dynasty conquered in a day, I would add. You’ve just eased a few months of stress.
    Whooo! Deep breath! Hugs to you! Thanks:)

  4. Thanks for the reminder to live in the moments of your life. Sometimes it’s hard to see the win through the muck, but you’ve given me some things to think (and write) about.

  5. Post

    avoiding wrinkles is definitely in the “win” column, chapstickmom.

    toby, my current shrink had a great thought on having love in our lives. he said that the more loving support i got from others, the more room i would have to get even more — and give even more. it’s the deprivation that keeps us down.

    skye, i’m always overwhelmed. it’s about the recovery time — at least for me. getting from overwhelmed to excitement about taking on a challenged. much more fun than feeling paralyzed. a win at a time, a bird at a time.

    kellie, i never thought about this win-win thing as being in the moment but of course, that makes total sense. have fun writing about this!

    laura, i totally agree. :)

  6. Ya know, I’d get a lot more done if you didn’t post such interesting stuff all the time. ;)

    I was taught long ago that when you argue with your partner, your goal should not be “to win.” It should to be “to understand and be understood.” After all, if you win, what does your partner do? Lose! Then she will feel lousy for losing and you will feel lousy for defeating her.

    I think this philosophy can be applied to any relationship – with friends, in business, etc.

    1. Post

      i agree with skye, doug! you explain it all so clearly. btw, this issue was central to my marital train wreck. after a while, every joint decision became a win/lose battleground. when we separated, couples therapy helped us break out of that ugly pattern. never too late to learn, right? so our problematic marriage became a good divorce. and no matter what, we are still raising our kid together. so that’s our win-win. :)

  7. Hmmm…you may have struck gold right there when you said it is never too late to learn. Great perspective.
    What wasn’t learned during marriage was worked out in some ways after divorce. No reason why you had to stop growing after the marriage.
    I guess (esp with a child), marriage really is forever. It’s how you do it that makes the difference.

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  8. In Steven R. Covey’s best seller book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” he lists Habit 4: Think Win-Win. Here is a link about this
    I don’t know if you have read his book (which I seem to have 2 copies of… I guess two people thought I needed it) This is probably where your therapist learned the concept and it would be a good book to read.

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  9. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989, is a self-help book written by Stephen R. Covey. It has sold more than 25 million copies in 38 languages since first publication, In August 2011, Time listed Seven Habits as one of “The 25 Most Influential Business Management Books”. The audio version became the first non-fiction audio-book in U.S. publishing history to sell more than one million copies.
    Covey earned a B.S. in business administration from the University of Utah, an MBA from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Religious Education (DRE) from Brigham Young University. Covey is a brother of Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity. He has been awarded ten honorary doctorates. And he is as bald as a cue ball ;)

  10. Doug’s comment really hit me as profound. The goal of an arguement is to undeerstand and to be understood. I am using your blog, my typing this, to drill this concept into my brain.

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