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Solving Conflicts With a Win-Win Mindset

Conflict Solving

17 December, 2020

Mei Lazell
Mei Lazell

Engineering Manager at Coinbase

Mei Lazell, Engineering Manager at Coinbase, discusses how to solve conflicts in the workplace by applying a win-win mindset approach and helping people find common ground.

Problem

Conflicts in the workplace are an almost inevitable part of our human interaction in a work-related setting. People would get into heated conversations over a minor issue or would enter seemingly irreconcilable situations for no apparent reason. In these and many other situations, I am often asked if I can help to solve conflicts where people have strong feelings about things and are resolute that they are right.

Actions taken

My approach is all about a mindset switch without delving into details who is right and who is wrong. In most cases, both sides have solid arguments but the way they perceive the situation “me vs. them” entrenches them into an unbridgeable divide. This worldview is notoriously translated into the “I am right and you are wrong” trope. It is always futile in resolving conflict because it even further entrenches people in their position and it doesn’t allow them to move forward and find a common ground.

What I like to do is to help people adopt a win-win mindset. A win-win mindset is not about establishing who is right or who is wrong and diminishing anyone, it is about being focused on making things work. With that outcome in mind, people would be more open and more willing to listen. Gradually, they will become more open to understand where another person is coming from, what is their context, and why misunderstanding/misalignment/conflict happened in the first place.

I believe that in conflict situations differences of opinions or misalignments amount to less than ten percent and that people’s distorted perception of things further amplifies it, so it seems to them -- but them only -- that is around sixty or seventy percent. Once conflicting individuals would adopt a win-win mindset and would start looking for a common ground they would be surprised to learn how insignificant their differences are.

I would encourage people to replace confrontation with a journey they should take to learn more about the other person’s context and arguments and how the misalignment occurred. It is indeed a journey because it takes time to change someone’s mind but it is a process that is beneficial not only for one or two persons but for the team in general.

Lessons learned

The win-win approach helps people focus on the solution, not their differences. Like with any other approach that requires a mindset shift, it takes time but it won’t take long for people to see its benefits. I personally applied this approach in different work-related settings and it always brought good results encouraging collaboration and a sense of camaraderie.

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