I find that when I’m struggling with decisions, it’s always a great idea to blog. Hitting ‘Publish’ is the difficult part.

Right now, I’m contending with difficult decisions every day.

  • Should we put an offer on this house?
  • Should I tell people about any new offers? The last one fell through and was disappointing.
  • Should I be supportive of a family member’s life choices, even if I don’t agree?
  • Should I spend my time reading the pile of books on the left? or the different pile on the right?
  • Should I work on this, that, or the other major project?

While these decisions will have to be addressed sooner or later, learning about my role in those decisions has been enlightening.

Recently, the wife and I discussed the 4th habit (Think Win-Win) of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. We read and talked through the sections on our Thanksgiving 18 hour round-trip drive. I’ve written several posts about working through the book and have found it to be life altering. Let me know if you want a copy. I’ll buy you one myself.

This post is about rectifying the decision making process by searching for the Win-Win.

Principles of Interpersonal Leadership

I’m finding that I have a responsibility to everyone I meet. In the last year, I’ve worked to identify my values and, more importantly, live by them. This means I have to routinely pause in conversations. I have to consider my words more than ever as I decided what to say in accordance with my values. This has lead me to be more honest, transparent, and supportive. As a result, I have a responsibility to keep calm and think things through (even when others can’t).

I’m very happy with this personal growth. Even when I mess up and get inappropriately angry, I’m able to take the criticism and learn.

What has been difficult is identifying how these traits come out in agreements.

I know there are outcomes I want to see for projects. I know there are outcomes I was to see with family. I know there are outcomes I want to see in the relationships I have with others. However, others come to the negotiation table with different desires. Sometimes, they hold a different vision, a different ideal outcome.

As an example, here is a recent situation that has caused me to take great pause.

I was called by an old friend that has run into trouble with the law. While I’ve invited him and his family to watch my wedding online, I’ve not made much effort to continue our relationship in any way. Even still, his family are longtime family friends, his mother worked for my mother, he helped me get a job in college, and he was integral in my conversion to Christianity. I am extremely grateful that they have been in my life. They even sent a wedding gift.

He asked to send emails back and forth. (Think prison pen-pal). Funny enough, as a kid, I knew people that had pen-pals that were in prison. It’s not unheard-of.

As I think about my future children and my wife, I have to consider their well-being. Will having a prison pen-pal affect my job? How will having this email thread affect my other relationships? What about the relationship I have with my family? What if he asks me for something more than life updates?

What decision can I make that is in accordance with my values? I need to constantly strive to answer this question. It is the difference between the Win-Win outcome and a no-deal.

A win-win can be a compromise, a simple resolution that benefits both parties, or an outcome that greatly changes both parties for the better.

A “no-deal” is exactly how it sounds. Both parties walk away without an exchange. Neither are better or worse. The agreement ends on the spot.

In Covey’s 7 Habits book, he described a situation where a CEO had to make the difficult decision to walk away from a big contract. He knew the client wasn’t happy with the software and that the relationship was going to be strained if the contract was enforced. (Unhappy clients can be more detrimental than unhappy ex-clients). The story for this value driven CEO ended on a boon. The unhappy client was overjoyed for the shredded contract. As a result, the client came back several months later to do a different (much bigger) deal with the company’s other software.

I would love difficult “no-deal” decisions more if they ended on a happy note. That is not reality though. As much as we can strive for the Win-Win, “no-deal” is always a lingering option.

I’ll continue to try my best to find the Win-Win in life.

Thank you for reading. I hope you found something to add to your everyday rhetoric repertoire. As well, I want to reiterate my offer to buy you a copy of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. For me, it started out as a curiosity and has been life altering.