10 ways to reach a win-win conclusion in any disagreement


When you realize you are facing different opinions and perspectives, you can feel like you have reached an impasse. Yet with shared commitment and patience, you can reach a decision together that feels like it’s the best choice for the situation and honors all the points of view.

The techniques we’ve seen work time and time again include the following:

  1. Listen. Steven Covey says: Seek first to understand before you are understood. When you truly understand the other opinions at the table, there may be an insight that sparks creative thinking.

  2. Imagine a Beachball. Picture a large, multi-colored beachball that you cannot see around. If you are standing squarely in front of the red section, when asked what color you see, you’ll say, “red.” However, for someone standing squarely in front of the blue section, all they will see is blue. Remember that whatever someone sees from their point of view is valid; respect and be curious about their perspective.

  3. Clarify the Outcome. Be very, very clear about the ultimate desired outcome for team or group. Why are we solving this issue? What's the purpose? Keep asking until the entire group can agree on the inspiring why.

  4. Stay Open. Keep opening your mind and your heart to the others in the discussion. Are you learning something new? Do you understand something new? Do you have compassion for others in the conversation?

  5. Let Go of All-Or-Nothing Thinking. This seems obvious, yet still needs to be stated. If you are stuck in all-or-nothing, you have no space for creativity, and you are stuck. It’s ineffective.

  6. Find Common Ground. Instead of focusing on the differences and the distance apart in the views, begin to focus on common ground. What can you agree on? What is the shared commitment?

  7. Be Clear About Topmost Priorities. Identify the single most important thing for you. Listen to the single most important thing for everyone else. List other desired outcomes, ranking them in order.

  8. Hit the Pause Button. Recognize when it’s time to take a break and walk away, yet have a plan for reengaging, whether it’s in 15 minutes, one hour, one day, or one week.

  9. Never Settle for Win/Lose. If the mood in the room is win/lose, you do not have an aligned, mutually beneficial agreement. Stay in the conversation until it feels like everyone really believes it’s the best choice for the situation. There may be some disappointment; yet it shouldn’t feel like someone won and someone lost.

  10. Maintain Relationship. Both results and relationships matter. Pushing for results while seriously damaging a relationship is not a win. Operate with dignity, respect, integrity, empathy and compassion before, during, and after the conversation.