Don’t ask people to collaborate if they know that, in the end, there will be a winner and a loser.

Resolving Conflicts with a win-win solution

The most frequent situation that you should solve is conflicts, they happen everywhere in your surroundings.

If you do not take control of the conflicts, they will just grow and in the end a small conflict will be your biggest headache in the future.

I will teach you how you solve a conflict where both parties leave as a winner.

How do you usually solve a conflict today?

  • One side gives up because they don’t want to deal with the problem?
  • One side forces the other side to give up?
  • One or both sides ignore the problem?
  • The sides negotiate a compromise?

Do you recognise the situations?

I bet you have seen and been part of all this conflict resolutions!

Did you feel good about the solution?

Observe that at least one side lose, in all the example solutions!

I here very frequently the words, can’t you come up with a compromise!

A compromise is a solution where no one is happy and both sides are the loser!

Target for Win-win instead, winning is satisfying and knowing that the other part also won, creates a good foundation for the future cooperation.

If a side lose they are not satisfied and might want to get revenge or they just perform badly or is stalling things.

When you deal with a conflict be aware of that there is a lot of emotions involved and we must bring it down to a logical level to be able to find a solution. Try to move away your feelings.

Most conflicts are caused by that we are defending our opinion or interests.

If we group, the conflicts; we can see two major categories; different opinions and multiple alternatives.

How do things tie together?

The planning circle will help us understand how things ties together.

The Planning Circle and conflicts

We have a common objective or Goal

Surrounding the Goal we have a circle of Needs, the things that must happen to make the objective/goal possible.

The outer circle is named Actions, here we have things we want and believe must be done to fulfil a need.

There are often many actions required to fulfil a need.

The Planning circle is readable if you start in the middle with the objective and read it outward it is read like this;

In order to “Objective” we must “Need(1)” and we must “need(2)” and we must (all needs)

In order to “Need (1) we must ”want(1)”

In order to “Need (2)) we must “want(2)”

The planning circle helps us visualize what is going on and how conflicts can start.

Most conflicts are in the action sections, we have needs and we have actions to fulfil the needs, and this actions conflict with each other.

Conflicts can also exist between needs but are not as frequent as the ones between Wants.

What is a win-win solution?

Win-win is when both sides can fulfil their needs without any compromises!

Why is this important?

The needs have been identified to exist to fulfil the objective, if we cannot fulfil a need we are compromising the objective.

Your needs must share a common objective, to create a conflict.

To solve the conflict, we must find alternative actions (wants) that will fulfil the need.

The goal must be fulfilled by the needs, and the needs must be fulfilled with the actions you take.

Conflicts and its origin

Different Opinion

Different opinion is the most common conflict; we have two forces that want to do different things to accomplish the common objective.

My wife and I was buying a summer house and we had a conflict regarding the location, my wife wanted it to be at the beach side and I wanted it to be a bit away from the beach side.

The conflict is that we cannot do both.

Different alternatives

In a politic election, we are only allowed to vote on one political party. Other situations are if we are buying solutions or software, we are limited to the money we can spend and can only afford one solution.

Conflict is that we can only select one.

Some Conflicts are hidden

Watch out for the hidden conflicts, you have them around you, and you are not aware of many of them, but watch out for the symptoms especially the ones that are effecting your changes.

One indicator of that there is a conflict is when things are slowing down, and nothing happens.

Other indicators are if managers are occupied with a thing that eats up their time.

Here are some examples of things causes this type of conflicts;

–   A person is afraid of losing power, due to the change.

–   A group or person are afraid of that they will lose their job due to the change.

–   A group or person that is protecting current solution.

Hidden conflicts are often related to human feelings.

Defuse conflict

We humans are sensitive and full of emotions that often prevent us from taking logical correct decision, so we must defuse the conflict to make it possible to solve it.

Defusing a conflict is about analysing what we want, what we Need to accomplish and our assumptions behind why we want to do this.

By just visualizing the conflict it might solve it, as you immediately get perspective of both sides of the conflict which makes you understand the reasons behind it.

The planning circle is where you shall start, it is not required to draw the whole circle it’s enough with the part representing a conflict, this is called an evaporation cloud or a conflict diagram.

Do we have a conflict?

How do we know we have a conflict?

Create the evaporation cloud (conflict map) by asking following 5 questions.

What does one side Want (W1)?

What does the other side Want (W2)?

What does one side Need (N1) that requires (W1)?

What does other side Need (N2) that requires (W2)?

What goal do both sides have in common (Common Objective)?

Now ask 2 more

Does Want (W1) block Need (N2)?

Does Want (W2) block Need (N1)?

If the answer is yes on the last two questions we know we have a conflict.

Let’s put in some more information so we better understand the questions needed to be asked for each box (entity) to create the evaporation cloud (conflict map).

Let’s look at the questions in each box.

•  The conflict answers the question;

Question: What prevents Action W1 and Action W2 to happen?

Answer: They cannot coexist, We cannot do both.

•  The actions answer the question;

Question: What action or decision do I want to take?

•  The Need answers the question;

Question: What need of Objective will my action satisfy?

•  The objective answers the question;

What is the common objective for which our needs N1 & N2 are needed?

Here is another way to express what a conflict is about;

Make both side of the conflict a winner

A Common solution to a conflict is that one side lose, this is not a good situation as the side that lost has less motivation in helping the winning side, so it often ends up in that losing side have a passive attitude or a negative attitude to the decision, which makes it harder to be successful with meeting the Common Objective.

Why does this happen? One reason is that we focus on the conflict instead of focusing on the common objective.

Focusing on the common objective will change our mind-set from being protective to being creative, we want our common objective to happen, so what do we have to do, to make it happen.

With visualization of the conflict we make it clear what our common objective is and our needs, this will help us creating a win-win solution.

If we solve the conflict and both sides ”Needs”, we end up in a positive situation where both side of the conflict actually gets it’s needs met which makes both sides a WINNER.

A win-win situation is a must, if you want to gain momentum in any area where you want improvement.

This applies also to business relations with vendors, if the deal is to good, the vendor is losing and it will likely effect you negative.

An example of this is outsourcing contract that one company did, it was very good and sheep.

But in the long run it turned out to have negative effects, the provider only did the minimum things they needed to do to provide the service and fulfil the contract. This lead to that system quality went down due to pore maintenance. But the contract was sheep.

Evaluate the evaporation cloud (conflict map) validity

We have 7 tests of logic to validate the evaporation cloud (conflict map) to make sure it is robust, this tests are done by reading the 7 tests out loud, if it makes sense when you read it and that you are not stumbling on the words or rephrase them you are good.

Read following sentence out loud, do they make sense?

1.    In order to (Objective), I/We must (N1)

2.    In order to (N1), I/We must (W1)

3.    In order to (Objective), I/We must (N2)

4.    In order to (N2), I/We must (W2)

5.    (W1) and (W2) are in direct conflict

6.    (W1) compromises the needs of (N2)

7.    (W2) compromises the needs of (N1)

If something does not sound good it is likely not correct, so change the wordings so it makes sense and it sounds correct.

The last two logical test helps you verify that there actually exists a conflict, if no compromising effects exists, your needs are not the right ones, so it has to be corrected, or that you find out that there is no conflict and both W1 and W2 can happen.

One more test;

All entities shall be defined in a sentence that has happen, that it already is, this makes it easier to read it and it also moves your logical analyse into a state where you analyse if it is true.

When we are satisfied with the validation we have a solid foundation of our evaporation cloud (conflict map) and can continue to adding in assumptions.

Assumptions behind relations, ask why!

Identifying our motivations of what we want and need.

Assumptions are helping us understand the motivation why we have a relation between the action (W1) and the need (N1) and between N1 and the Common Objective.

Another way of saying it is that assumptions explain the conditions under which the relation between two entities in the map are valid.

Assumptions between W1 and N1 are explaining why W1 is needed in order to meet N1.

Question to ask; Why is Want (W1) necessary to fulfil Need (N1)?

The best way to write a motivation is by using strong wordings, like, ”it have to”, ”we can never”, ”we must always” etc. to make it clearer that the relation really exists and we have a strong motivation for it.

Here is an example of rewriting an assumption to strong wordings; ”Our apartment must be at the beach side” would be in extreme wording ”Our apartment cannot be at any other places than at the beach side”, with the extreme wordings we are really emphasizing the need of the assumption.

With extreme wording untruths, will be easier to spot.

Assumptions are read as a complement to the ”Need” and ”Want” by doing ”because”

In order to have (N2), I/We must have (W2) because (assumption) and because (assumption).

Assumptions can be added in at each arrow in the evaporation cloud (conflict map), but start adding in assumption between Want and Needs on both side of the conflict, it is usually enough.

Assumptions can be pros and cons; cons are generally feedbacks from the conflicting side.

My recommendation is that you only shall use pros, use cons only if you have an open climate with a high sealing, but sometimes it is necessary to bring in the cons to provide the full perspective.

Validating Assumptions

As you have used extreme wordings it is very easy to evaluate the assumptions.

Read out the relation including the assumption loud

In order to have (N2), I/We must have (W2) because (assumption)

Now Evaluate the assumption, is this really true?

Discuss the assumption and read them load again to get a feeling for its validity.

If an assumption doesn’t ”hit us over the head”, it is likely it is not valid

Remove the invalid assumption, and put them on the side we might need them later to find a solution as they might provide a path to changing what we want or finding a new solution, so do not through anything away.

Resistance to change

Finding solutions by solving a conflict can be hard and you must know how and why we humans resist change.

Efrat Goldratt was a PhD student in Israel when she 1995 put together a fantastic evaporation cloud (conflict map) called Efrats Cloud that describes the conflict and the assumptions behind.

Have this evaporation cloud (conflict map) in mind when you are working with people on defining and solving your own evaporation clouds (conflict maps).

Efrat Goldrats is also the daughter of Eliyahu M. Goldratt that is the inventor of a toolkit named Logical Thinking Process, evaporation cloud is one of the tools in Logical Thinking Process.

Efrats Cloud

Picture taken from

The objective is that we want to be happy, and there are two needs to fulfil they are satisfaction and security, and the conflict is in change and resist change.

The acceptance of a change is more likely to be accepted if it leads to satisfaction, changes leading to insecurity will meet resistance,

The key is to make sure that you provide a win-win solution.

Finding solutions

Solutions are found by thinking outside of the box, what other alternatives exists to fulfil the ”Need”?

Unlock the future. Thinking outside of the box means approaching problems in new, innovative ways; conceptualizing problems differently; and understanding your position in relation to any situation in a way you’d never thought of before.

Here are a few rules when you work on finding solutions;

Rule nr 0; Do not give up!!!!

Rule nr 1; Establish a positive attitude

Rule nr 2; No negative responses are allowed, do not criticize any stupid idea!

Rule nr 3; Write down all ideas that are coming, bad ideas will generate more and good ideas!

Rule nr 4; Work backwards from what must be fulfilled (what can fulfil N1), ignore your want!!

Rule nr 5; Look at what other people have done, most things are already invented, so go get inspirations and alternatives.

Rule nr 6; Try one or more methods, like brainstorming, TRIZ, Six thinking hats, etc.

Rule nr 7; Bring in someone from outside, to get help with new perspectives;

Rule nr 8; Always start with finding solution for a need to break the conflict.

Rule nr 9; It often is a combination of actions that are needed to replace a Want and break the conflict.

Consider this scenario;

We need to work to get money to see a movie so we are happy.

Are there any other ways to see a movie?

–   We can borrow money to go to the cinema

–   We can steel money to go to the cinema

–   We can sell something to go to the cinema

–   We can sneak into the movie on a cinema

–   We can ask a friend if they could go with us and pay for the ticket

What do we mean by a movie? Is it equals to go to a cinema? Maybe not, so let’s continue think outside of the box.

–   We can use the conference centre at work, which has a good projector and I am allowed to invite a few friends

When we are working on breaking a conflict, we always start with the weakest side.

The weakest side is the side that has the fewest assumptions.

But if you cannot find a solution, jump over to the other side and make a new try, you will be surprised.

And always start with finding a new solution for a Need and replace the ”Want” with one or more new actions.

Use the assumptions that are valid as well as the ones you invalidated to come up with solutions.

With the valid assumptions, ask yourself is there any other way than the want to accomplish this.

With invalid assumptions ask yourself if this can give you hints for new solutions.

Your solution must be a win-win solution where both sides needs are fulfilled.

In tricky situations, you must add in assumptions for each arrow in the cloud and see if one of them can be broken or changed.

If the Need can be changed a little, you actually, end up in a new situation which can make your wants invalid and you can find a new solution.

An example of solving a conflict

It’s time to look at an example, I and my wife are going to buy an apartment in Spain, and have ended up in a conflict regarding the location, my wife wants it at the beach side and I do not, so the conflict is that we cannot do both.

Think of the 7 questions when you create the conflict

What does one side Want (W1)?

What does the other side Want (W2)?

What does one side Need (N1) that requires (W1)?

What does other side Need (N2) that requires (W2)?

What goal do both sides have in common (Common Objective)?

Does Want (W1) block Need (N2)?

Does Want (W2) block Need (N1)?

If the answer is yes on the last two questions we know we have a conflict.

Let’s create our evaporation cloud (conflict map), by drawing the structure and filling in what we know.

We have defined what both sides want and what prevents them to happen, the conflict that we cannot do both.

In many cases this will be enough to solve your conflict, as it gives you a new and visual view of your conflict.

We can now ether define the needs first which is the normal approach and then the common objective or if you have the common objective put that in and then try to find the needs.

Use the questions, they help you with formulation.

In this case, it is rather simple to define the common objective, we are buying an apartment in Spain so this is our objective.

Now each side must formulate their Need, that is needed for use to have an apartment in Spain.

My need is a calm and relaxing surrounding.

My wife defined her to be Easy access to the beach.

Let’s read it out loud so we can validate that we have a solid evaporation cloud (conflict map).

–   In order to have and apartment in Spain, We must have Easy access to the beach and We must have A calm and relaxing surrounding.

To be able to not stumble on the words I left out our ”We” in the objective.

Lest read each side in it fully

–   In order to have and apartment in Spain, We must have Easy access to the beach, In order to have Easy access to the beach we must have the Apartment at the beach.

–   In order to have and apartment in Spain, We must have A calm and relaxing surrounding, In order to have A calm and relaxing surrounding, We must Not have Apartment at the beach.

I had to make minor adjustments to make the last sentence flow, but in general it sounds like a solid evaporation cloud (conflict map).

Next step is to motivate why we have our want, we do this by adding in assumptions between want and the need on each side.

So lets ask the question again for identifying an assumption;

Question to ask; Why is Want (W1) necessary to fulfil Need (N1)?

And we should use strong wordings like, must, cannot be any other places etc.

We now have 4 assumptions on one side and 3 on the other.

They are not all written in strong wordings, so we should rephrase some of them to make it clearer which one that is not valid.

All the assumptions look solid enough, so we need to find an angel that breaks some of them or make an entry point for an alternative or a change in the want.

On upper side, all assumptions are about that it shall be easy to access the beach, reflecting our Need, but what makes this require that the apartment is at the beach?

The assumption The see is calming, tells us that we want to see the beach from our apartment as well but rest of the assumption do not indicate that they requires that apartment is at the beach.

The other side assumption is about that it is windy and noisy at the beach, and it is trough it is often windy and waves are creating sound.

The last assumption of noisy beach parties, we do not really know that, so we will invalidate that assumption.

As both sides are strong but one side has fewer assumption, we try to break it from that angel.

How far from the beach do we have to go before it is not so noisy and windy?

If there is a small hill or a couple of higher houses those will block most of the wind and the noise.

We realize that lower side needs another assumption, so we add it in relaxing surrounding, also means that number of people passing by us and will look at us when we eat lunch should be low.

We cannot find a good breakpoint, but it gave us an idea, that if the apartment is on walking distance and that we can see the see from a roof sundeck we actually could satisfy both needs.

We started to estimate, how far from the see we can be to fulfil our needs and meet up with the assumptions.

With focusing on the objective and the needs, we were able to find the right solution, so now we have an apartment in Spain.

Let me know if you have questions, when you create a win-win solution of your conflict


One thought on “Afraid of conflicts? A Win-Win solution Guide!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.