Finding a Win-Win in Difficult Situations

There are some extremely smart and creative people in the tech world. Surprisingly, many of them struggle with the simple concept of finding a win-win situation when adversity strikes.

I’ve observed that it’s common for developers to see a difficult circumstance as a win-lose, lose-win, or worse yet, a lose-lose proposition. These situations can seem scary, but they can also provide a great opportunity to grow a relationship. In my experience, people remember how adversity was handled, not that it occurred.

The ticket to discovering a win-win involves stepping outside of the situation, having empathy for the other party, and using the same creative problem-solving skills that make you a top developer.

Here’s the process I use.

  1. Recognize the Situation
    Many of these situations happen so quickly that we miss them. If you feel like a decision that you’re about to make will result in someone “losing,” you’ve found your opportunity.
  2. Identify What You Want
    These situations are inevitably complex and full of possibilities. I find that starting with what I want and subordinating to that constraint helps me develop a plan forward.
  3. Examine the Facts
    Think deeply about the events that brought you to this point of feeling like someone is going to lose. In what order did things happen? What promises were made? What didn’t go according to plan?
  4. Hypothesize About What the Other Person Wants
    Put on your empathy hat and review the facts. What are the other person’s motivations, behaviors, and alternatives? Honestly ask yourself what you’d want if you were in their position. Many times, it’s something much simpler than you originally believed.
  5. Open the Lines of Communication
    Have a conversation with the other person. Ask clarifying questions. Validate that your hypothesis is correct.
  6. Find a Solution with a Positive Outcome
    Be creative, be generous (but not stupid), and put a plan in place that will satisfy both parties.

Good luck. Enhancing your ability to turn difficult circumstances into win-win situations will make you a more highly regarded team member, leader, and partner.