If you live in a society, then clearly once in a while you find yourself pondering over how to handle conflicts. The conflict might be affecting your personal life concerning a friend or a member of your family or in your professional life with a peer, an employee or a client. It’s true that wherever there are people, conflicts are bound to erupt. Why? Well, that’s a matter to a different column; let’s just say that basic human traits turn humans into ‘conflict prone’ creatures. More information concerning these traits and how they are a demonstration of our ego can be found in the book The Romance of Ego & Conflict.

Therefore, how to handle conflict? As the title of this post goes, the win-win approach is not preferred. I have been training and consulting people all over the world on how to handle conflicts, or better still, how to conduct an effective negotiation. As a result, what I’m sharing with you in this post is based on thousands of hours of constructive consultation. Therefore, the win-win approach that supports an ‘everybody wins’ attitude is not how you should handle conflicts.

Let’s throw in a short exercise. Recall the last 'juicy' – in the sense of taking you to the edge emotion wise – conflict you had. Relive this conflict; let the events roll in your head once again and focus your attention on the thoughts and feelings that occupied and governed your mind amidst the conflict. Now, as these thoughts and emotions are playing in your mind, try to think of a collaborative- win-win like-solution. Can you see yourself creating such a solution with the person you're having the conflict with?

Most people, if not all, including you, wince at the mere thought of collaborating with the person they are entangled in a conflict with. The other side threatens, insults and makes us angry and/or any other feeling that accompanies a conflict, and as a result, the collaborative door is shut.

"Yes," you may say to me "indeed during the storm of conflict we can't think collaboratively, yet when we cool down a bit, we can then apply the Win-Win approach". This, indeed, is an option, yet I have been a witness to a good number of circumstances where it took people years to quiet down, and some still harbor the anger many years down the line. The pertinent question is, should we put business opportunities, relationships and, most of all, and our good feelings on hold until our anger subside? And what if it'll take us years or even a life time to cool down? In addition, without proper conflict resolution skills, when you eventually cool down and try to create a Win-Win solution, it is more likely that you will compromise in the name of collaboration. Due to that reason, many a time people associate the question 'how to handle conflict' with both Win-Win and compromises…

The idea I’m trying to put across is that Win-Win doesn't side with the process humans undergo during conflicts and tough negotiations. The survival state of mind we are characterized by during threatening situation and the resulting conflicts are regarded by our mind as hostile situations, thereby exterminating any collaborative thought that may linger in our mind. Therefore win-win can’t form the basis on which one can build a solid conflict management process.

Still not convinced? What about situations containing power imbalances? In such a condition, the stronger side might not have the incentive to create a Win-Win solution. But being the stronger of the two, and therefore having an upper hand as far as the conflict is concerned, he's likely to 'pull the blanket closer to his side of the bed' creating a solution which is closer to a Win – Lose solution rather than to a Win – Win one.

I would like to call to you attention the fact that I’m not against collaborative solutions, what I’m against is the collaborative state of mind represented by the Win – Win approach, which as I stated earlier, does not conform with the human state of mind during conflicts. The most tragic part is that we are always unable to think in the win-win way when we need it the most i.e. during conflicts and tough negotiations.

You may concur with me at this point of my discussion that you would like to confront me with the question, ‘what do you suggest?’ Well, I’m offering a model that I have chosen to call I WIN, which rides on one's selfish interest of maximizing one's own utility. Most personal or professional relationships are characterized by some level of interdependency, thus maximizing one's utility requires the acknowledgement of the other side's interests. You will notice that the drive for such recognition is not a collaborative thought but rather a selfish one. The I WIN state of mind might just leads to a Win-Win solution, provided such a solution is in the best interest of a given party. As a matter of fact, the selfish motivation here increases the chances that such a solution will indeed be created eventually, yet in circumstances characterized by power imbalance, it will 'allow' the stronger side to use its excessive powers over the other side, and therefore impose his will on the other party.

What I've described in this post is just but the tip of the iceberg. Understanding the flaws of Win –Win will require one to plummet into the 'rabbit hole' of human characteristics. Being able to utilize effectually the I win approach so that it'll take you to where you truly want to go, calls for a better understanding of how one should define his 'win' and on the methodology to properly use the I win model.

For more information about how to handle conflict in general, the flaws of Win – Win and the supremacy of I win methodology over the Win - Win model, you are invited to read two of my books: The I win Negotiation & Conflict Approach and The Romance of Ego & Conflict.

Author's Bio: 

With academic background in Economics, Accountancy, Law and Philosophy Asaf Shani is a highly experienced facilitator - consultant - trainer on confrontational situations. A Confrontational situation is a situation in which two entities (groups or individuals), holding opposing viewpoints, meet. Every conflict, negotiation, sales encounter, a difficult conversation etc, falls into this category.

Asaf started his way in the M&A division of Delloite & Touche, then in the beginning of 2001 he established Shani Mediation Inc. which specializes in consulting and training corporations and individuals.

He developed unique models like the I Win model and Unravel the conflict methodology that were successfully implemented in giant firms like IBM, Microsoft, Intel, HP, Coca-Cola, Nokia, Orange, along with government agencies, hospitals and many SMB organizations.

His hobbies include Kung-Fu, horse riding, swimming and jogging.