5 Paradigms of Human Interaction


There are five major paradigms of human interactions. Win-win is not a technique; it's a total philosophy of human interaction. The alternative paradigms are win-lose, lose-win, lose-lose, win, and Win-Win or No Deal TM
Win-Win
Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win-win means that agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial, mutually satisfying. With a win-win solution, all parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the action plan. Win-win sees life as a cooperative, not a competitive arena. Most people tend to think in terms of dichotomies: strong or weak, hardball or softball, win or lose. But that kind of thinking if fundamentally flawed. It's based on power and position rather than on principle. Win-win is based on the paradigm that there is plenty for everybody, that one person's success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others. Win-win is a belief in the Third Alternative. It's not your way or my way; it's a better way, a higher way.
Win-Lose
One alternative to win-win is win-lose, the paradigm of the race to Bermuda. It says "If I win, you lose.  In leadership style, win-lose is the authoritarian approach: "I get my way; you don't get yours." Win-lose people are prone to use position, power, credentials, possessions, or personality to get their way.  Most people have been deeply scripted in the win-lose mentality since birth. First and most important of the powerful forces at work is the family. When one child is compared with another -- when patience, understanding or love is given or withdrawn on the basis of such comparisons -- people are into win-lose thinking. Whenever love is given on a conditional basis, when someone has to earn love, what's being communicated to them is that they are not intrinsically valuable or lovable. Value does not lie inside them, it lies outside. It's in comparison with somebody else or against some expectation. And what happens to a young mind and heart, highly vulnerable, highly dependent upon the support and emotional affirmation of the parents, in the face of conditional love? The child is molded, shaped, and programmed in the win-lose mentality.  "If I'm better than my brother, my parents will love me more." "My parents don't love me as much as they love my sister. I must not be as valuable."
Another powerful scripting agency is the peer group. A child first wants acceptance from his parents and then from his peers, whether they be siblings or friends. And we all know how cruel peers sometimes can be. They often accept or reject totally on the basis of conformity to their expectations and norms, providing additional scripting toward win-lose.  The academic world reinforces win-lose scripting. The "normal distribution curve" basically says that you got an "A" because someone else got a "C." It interprets an individual's value by comparing him or her to everyone else. No recognition is given to intrinsic value; everyone is extrinsically defined. "Oh, how nice to see you here at our PTA meeting. You ought to be really proud of your daughter, Caroline. She's in the upper 10 percent."  "That makes me feel good." "But your son, Johnny, is in trouble. He's in the lower quartile." "Really? Oh, that's terrible! What can we do about it?" What this kind of comparative information doesn't tell you is that perhaps Johnny is going on all eight cylinders while Caroline is coasting on four of her eight. But people are not graded against their potential or against the full use of their present capacity.
They are graded in relation to other people. And grades are carriers of social value; they open doors of opportunity or they close them. Competition, not cooperation, lies at the core of the educational process. Cooperation, in fact, is usually associated with cheating. Another powerful programming agent is athletics, particularly for young men in their high school or college years. Often they develop the basic paradigm that life is a big game, a zero sum game where some win and some lose. "Winning" is "beating" in the athletic arena.  Another agent is law. We live in a litigious society. The first thing many people think about when they get into trouble is suing someone, taking him to court, "winning" at someone else's expense. But defensive minds are neither creative nor cooperative.
Certainly we need law or else society will deteriorate. It provides survival, but it doesn't create synergy. At best it results in compromise. Law is based on an adversarial concept. The recent trend of encouraging lawyers and law schools to focus on peaceable negotiation, the techniques of win-win, and the use of private courts, may not provide the ultimate solution, but it does reflect a growing awareness of the problem.
Certainly there is a place for win-lose thinking in truly competitive and low-trust situations. But most of life is not a competition. We don't have to live each day competing with our spouse, our children, our co-workers, our neighbors, and our friends. "Who's winning in your marriage?" is a ridiculous question. If both people aren't winning, both are losing. Most of life is an interdependent, not an independent, reality. Most results you want depend on cooperation between you and others. And the win-lose mentality is dysfunctional to that cooperation. ooperation between you and others. And the win-lose mentality is dysfunctional to that cooperation.
Lose-Win
Some people are programmed the other way -- lose-win.  "I lose, you win."
"Go ahead. Have your way with me."  "Step on me again. Everyone does." I'm a loser. I've always been a loser."  "I'm a peacemaker. I'll do anything to keep peace." Lose-win is worse than win-lose because it has no standards -- no demands, no expectations, no vision. People who think lose-win are usually quick to please or appease. They seek strength from popularity or acceptance. They have little courage to express their own feelings and convictions and are easily intimidated by the ego strength of others.  In negotiation, lose-win is seen as capitulation -- giving in or giving up. In leadership style, it's permissiveness or indulgence. Lose-win means being a nice guy, even if "nice guys finish last. Win-lose people love lose-win people because they can feed on them. They love their weaknesses -- they take advantage of them. Such weaknesses complement their strengths.
But the problem is that lose-win people bury a lot of feelings. And unexpressed feelings never die; they're buried alive and come forth in uglier ways. Psychosomatic illnesses, particularly of the respiratory, nervous, and circulatory systems often are the reincarnation of cumulative resentment, deep disappointment, and disillusionment repressed by the lose-win mentality. Disproportionate rage or anger, overreaction to minor provocation, and cynicism are other embodiments of suppressed emotion.  People who are constantly repressing, not transcending, feelings towards a higher meaning find that it affects the quality of their self-esteem and eventually the quality of their relationships with others.
Both win-lose and lose-win are weak positions, based in personal insecurities. In the short run, win-lose will produce more results because it draws on the often considerable strengths and talents of the people at the top. Lose-win is weak and chaotic from the outset.  Many executives, managers, and parents swing back and forth, as if on a pendulum, from win-lose inconsideration to lose-win indulgence. When they can't stand confusion and lack of structure, direction, expectation, and discipline any longer, they swing back to win-lose -- until guilt undermines their resolve and drives them back to lose-win -- until anger and frustration drive them back to win-lose again.
Lose-Lose
When two win-lose people get together -- that is, when two determined, stubborn, ego-invested individuals interact -- the result will be lose-lose. Both will lose. Both will become vindictive and want to "get back" or "get even," blind to the fact that murder is suicide, that revenge is a two-edged sword.  I know of a divorce in which the husband was directed by the judge to sell the assets and turn over half the proceeds to his ex-wife. In compliance, he sold a car worth over $10,000 for $50 and gave $25 to the wife. When the wife protested, the court clerk checked on the situation and discovered that the husband was proceeding in the same manner systematically through all of the assets.  Some people become so centered on an enemy, so totally obsessed with the behavior of another person that they become blind to everything except their desire for that person to lose, even if it means losing themselves. Lose-lose is the philosophy of adversarial conflict, the philosophy of war. Lose-lose is also the philosophy of the highly dependent person without inner direction who is miserable and thinks everyone else should be, too. "If nobody ever wins, perhaps being a loser isn't so bad.
Win
Another common alternative is simply to think win. People with the win mentality don't necessarily want someone else to lose. That's irrelevant. What matters is that they get what theywant.  When there is no sense of contest or competition, win is probably the most common approach in everyday negotiation. A person with the win mentality thinks in terms of securing his own ends -- and leaving it to others to secure theirs. Which Option Is Best?  Of these five philosophies discussed so far -- win-win, win-lose, lose-win, lose-lose, and win -- which is the most effective? The answer is, "It depends." If you win a football game, that means the other team loses. If you work in a regional office that is miles away from another regional office, and you don't have any functional relationship between the offices, you may want to compete in a win-lose situation to stimulate business. However, you would not want to set up a win-lose situation like the
"Race to Bermuda" contest within a company or in a situation where you need cooperation among people or groups of people to achieve maximum success.  If you value a relationship and the issue isn't really that important, you may want to go for lose-win in some circumstances to genuinely affirm the other person. "What I want isn't as important to me as my relationship with you. Let's do it your way this time." You might also go for lose-win if you feel the expense of time and effort to achieve a win of any kind would violate other higher values. Maybe it just isn't worth it.
There are circumstances in which you would want to win, and you wouldn't be highly concerned with the relationship of that win to others. If your child's life were in danger, for example, you might be peripherally concerned about other people and circumstances. But saving that life would be supremely important.  The best choice, then, depends on reality. The challenge is to read that reality accurately and not to translate win-lose or other scripting into every situation.
Most situations, in fact, are part of an interdependent reality, and then win-win is really the only viable alternative of the five. Win-lose is not viable because, although I appear to win in a confrontation with you, your feelings, your attitudes toward me and our relationship have been affected. If I am a supplier to your company, for example, and I win on my terms in a particular negotiation, I may get what I want now. But will you come to me again? My short-term win will really be a long-term lose if I don't get your repeat business. So an interdependent win-lose is really lose-lose in the long run.  If we come up with a lose-win, you may appear to get what you want for the moment. But how will that affect my attitude about working with you, about fulfilling the contract? I may not feel as anxious to please you. I may carry battle scars with me into any future negotiations. My attitude about you and your company may be spread as I associate with others in the industry. So we're into lose-lose again. Lose-lose obviously isn't viable in any context. And if I focus on my own win and don't even consider your point of view, there's no basis for any kind of productive relationship. In the long run, if it isn't a win for both of us, we both lose. That's why win-win is the only real alternative in interdependent realities.  I worked with a client once, the president of a large chain of retail stores, who said, "Stephen, this win-win idea sounds good, but it is so idealistic. The tough, realistic business world isn't like that. There's win-lose everywhere, and if you're not out there playing the game, you just can't make it." "I'd lose my customers." "Then, go for lose-win -- give the store away. Is that realistic?" "No. No margin, no mission."
As we considered the various alternatives, win-win appeared to be the only truly realistic approach.  "I guess that's true with customers," he admitted, "but not with suppliers." "You are the customer of the supplier," I said. "Why doesn't the same principle apply?"  "Well, we recently renegotiated our lease agreements with the mall operators and owners," he said. "We went in with a win-win attitude. We were open, reasonable, conciliatory. But they saw that position as being soft and weak, and they took us to the cleaners."  "Well, why did you go for lose-win?" I asked. "We didn't. We went for win-win." "I thought you said they took you to the cleaners." "They did." "In other words, you lost." "That's right." "And they won." "That's right." "So what's that called?" When he realized that what he had called win-win was really lose-win, he was shocked. And as we examined the long-term impact of that lose-win, the suppressed feelings, the trampled values, the resentment that seethed under the surface of the relationship, we agreed that it was really a loss for both parties in the end.
If this man had had a real win-win attitude, he would have stayed longer in the communication process, listened to the mall owner more, then expressed his point of view with more courage. He would have continued in the win-win spirit until a solution was reached and they both felt good about it. And that solution, that Third Alternative, would have been synergistic -- probably something neither of them had thought of on his own.
Win-Win or No Deal TM
If these individuals had not come up with a synergistic solution -- one that was agreeable to both -- they could have gone for an even higher expression of win-win, Win-Win or No Deal.  No deal basically means that if we can't find a solution that would benefit us both, we agree to disagree agreeably -- no deal. No expectations have been created, no performance contracts established. I don't hire you or we don't take on a particular assignment together because it's obvious that our values or our goals are going in opposite directions. It is so much better to realize this up front instead of downstream when expectations have been created and both parties have been disillusioned.
When you have no deal as an option in your mind, you feel liberated because you have no need to manipulate people, to push your own agenda, to drive for what you want. You can be open. You can really try to understand the deeper issues underlying the positions.  With no deal as an option, you can honestly say, "I only want to go for win-win. I want to win, and I want you to win. I wouldn't want to get my way and have you not feel good about it, because downstream it would eventually surface and create a withdrawal. On the other hand, I don't think you would feel good if you got your way and I gave in. So let's work for a win-win. Let's really hammer it out. And if we can't find it, then let's agree that we won't make a deal at all. It would be better not to deal than to live with a decision that wasn't right for us both. Then maybe another time "I'd lose my customers."  "Then, go for lose-win -- give the store away. Is that realistic?" "No. No margin, no mission."
As we considered the various alternatives, win-win appeared to be the only truly realistic approach.  "I guess that's true with customers," he admitted, "but not with suppliers." "You are the customer of the supplier," I said. "Why doesn't the same principle apply?"  "Well, we recently renegotiated our lease agreements with the mall operators and owners," he said. "We went in with a win-win attitude. We were open, reasonable, conciliatory. But they saw that position as being soft and weak, and they took us to the cleaners."  "Well, why did you go for lose-win?" I asked. "We didn't. We went for win-win." "I thought you said they took you to the cleaners." "They did." "In other words, you lost." "That's right." "And they won." "That's right." "So what's that called?"
When he realized that what he had called win-win was really lose-win, he was shocked. And as we examined the long-term impact of that lose-win, the suppressed feelings, the trampled values, the resentment that seethed under the surface of the relationship, we agreed that it was really a loss for both parties in the end. If this man had had a real win-win attitude, he would have stayed longer in the communication process, listened to the mall owner more, then expressed his point of view with more courage. He would have continued in the win-win spirit until a solution was reached and they both felt good about it. And that solution, that Third Alternative, would have been synergistic -- probably something neither of them had thought of on his own.
Win-Win or No Deal TM  If these individuals had not come up with a synergistic solution -- one that was agreeable to both -- they could have gone for an even higher expression of win-win, Win-Win or No Deal.  No deal basically means that if we can't find a solution that would benefit us both, we agree to disagree agreeably -- no deal. No expectations have been created, no performance contracts established. I don't hire you or we don't take on a particular assignment together because it's obvious that our values or our goals are going in opposite directions. It is so much better to realize this up front instead of downstream when expectations have been created and both parties have been disillusioned.
When you have no deal as an option in your mind, you feel liberated because you have no need to manipulate people, to push your own agenda, to drive for what you want. You can be open. You can really try to understand the deeper issues underlying the positions.  With no deal as an option, you can honestly say, "I only want to go for win-win. I want to win, and I want you to win. I wouldn't want to get my way and have you not feel good about it, because downstream it would eventually surface and create a withdrawal. On the other hand, I don't think you would feel good if you got your way and I gave in. So let's work for a win-win. Let's really hammer it out. And if we can't find it, then let's agree that we won't make a deal at all. It would be better not to deal than to live with a decision that wasn't right for us both. Then maybe another timeSome time after learning the concept of Win-Win or No Deal, the president of a small computer software company shared with me the following experience:  "We had developed new software which we sold on a five-year contract to a particular bank. The bank president was excited about it, but his people weren't really behind the decision. "About a month later, that bank changed presidents. The new president came to me and said, 'I am uncomfortable with these software conversions. I have a mess on my hands. My people are all saying that they can't go through this and I really feel I just can't push it at this point in time.' "My own company was in deep financial trouble. I knew I had every legal right to enforce the contract. But I had become convinced of the value of the principle of win-win. "So I told him 'We have a contract. Your bank has secured our products and our services to convert you to this program. But we understand that you're not happy about it. So what we'd like to do is give you back the contract, give you back your deposit, and if you are ever looking for a software solution in the future, come back and see us.'  "I literally walked away from an $84,000 contract. It was close to financial suicide. But I felt that, in the long run, if the principle were true, it would come back and pay dividends. "Three months later, the new president called me. 'I'm now going to make changes in my date processing,' he said, 'and I want to do business with you.' He signed a contract for $240,000." Anything less than win-win in an interdependent reality is a poor second best that will have impact in the long-term relationship. The cost of the impact needs to be carefully considered. If you can't reach a true win-win, you're very often better off to go for no deal.
Win-Win or No Deal provides tremendous emotional freedom in the family relationship. If family members can't agree on a video that everyone will enjoy, they can simply decide to do something else -- no deal -- rather than having some enjoy the evening at the expense of others.  I have a friend whose family has been involved in singing together for several years. When they were young, she arranged the music, made the costumes, accompanied them on the piano, and directed the performances. As the children grew older, their taste in music began to change and they wanted to have more say in what they performed and what they wore. They became less responsive to direction.  Because she had years of experience in performing herself and felt closer to the needs of the older people at the rest homes where they planned to perform, she didn't feel that many of the ideas they were suggesting would be appropriate. At the same time, however, she recognized their need to express themselves and to be part of the decision-making process. So she set up a Win-Win or No Deal. She told them she wanted to arrive at an agreement that everyone felt good about -- or they would simply find other ways to enjoy their talents. As a result, everyone felt free to express his or her feelings and ideas as they worked to set up a Win-Win.
Agreement, knowing that whether or not they could agree, there would be no emotional strings.  The Win-Win or No Deal approach is most realistic at the beginning of a business relationship or enterprise. In a continuing business relationship, no deal may not be a viable option, which can create serious problems, especially for family businesses or businesses that are begun initially on the basis of friendship. In an effort to preserve the relationship, people sometimes go on for years making one compromise after another, thinking win-lose or lose-win even while talking win-win. This creates serious problems for the people and for the business, particularly if the competition operates on win-win and synergy.  Without no deal, many such businesses simply deteriorate and either fail or have to be turned over to professional managers. Experience shows that it is often better in setting up a family business or a business between friends to acknowledge the possibility of no deal downstream and to establish some kind of buy/sell agreement so that the business can prosper without permanently damaging. Of course there are some relationships where no deal is not viable. I wouldn't abandon my child or my spouse and go for no deal (it would be better, if necessary, to go for compromise -- a low form of win-win). But in many cases, it is possible to go into negotiation with a full Win-Win or No Deal attitude. And the freedom in the attitude is incredible.

Think Win-Win is the habit of interpersonal leadership. It involves the exercise of each of the unique human endowments -- self-awareness, imagination, conscience, and independent will -- in our relationships with others. It involves mutual learning, mutual influence, mutual benefits.  It takes great courage as well as consideration to create these mutual benefits, particularly if we're interacting with others who are deeply scripted in win-los. That is why this habit involves principles of interpersonal leadership. Effective interpersonal leadership requires the vision, the proactive initiative, and the security, guidance, wisdom, and power that come from principle-centered personal leadership. The principle of win-win is fundamental to success in all our interactions, and it embraces five interdependent dimensions of life. It begins with character and moves toward relationships, out of which flow agreements. It is nurtured in an environment where structure and systems are based on win-win. And it involves process; we cannot achieve win-win ends with win-lose or lose-win means.