“It’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way.” – Stephen Covey
Jerry discovered that Debbie, the step-mother of his girlfriend Connie, was a Life Coach. He and Connie had been having problems lately. He wanted to take their relationship to the next level – move in together. Connie wasn’t so sure. They had been seeing each other for about six months and Connie was noticing some things that sent up some red flags.
Jerry was determined to move in, but he knew he needed some extra support with Connie. He got Debbie’s phone number out of Connie’s phone when she stepped out of the room. The next day when Connie was at work he called Debbie and started talking like they were old friends or like he was her client.
Debbie knew about Connie’s misgivings about the relationship so she played along allowing him to continue talking hoping to find out more information about Jerry. He talked and talked and talked. Debbie was surprised. She really couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
“I’m so glad you took my call. I really want to get to know you. Connie and I will be moving in together in just a couple of weeks. I’m so excited. I go over now and clean up her apartment and have dinner ready for her when she gets home. As soon as I move in I’ll be able to really take care of her.”
“Jerry,” he finally stopped talking. “How are you going to do all of that and work?”
“Oh. I’m waiting for my disability check to kick in.”
“You’re not working?” Debbie asked.
“Well, I am. You might say. I need your help. I really love Connie and she’s been talking about us moving in together, but lately, she seems to be getting cold feet. I know why and I need your help to talk to her.”
“What do you need my help with? I don’t know you. Why would I help you?” Debbie asked.
“I know she thinks I’m acting strange. I’ve tried to talk to her, but I don’t seem to be able to get it across to her. I need your help,” Jerry said.
“What is it you want to get across to her?”
“I’m ADHD and some of the things I do are a little different. I need you to explain it to her so she understands,” Jerry said after a little pause.
The goal of communication with anyone is to create a Win-Win situation for all parties. Stephen R. Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, states that “Win-Win is not a technique to be learned, but a philosophy of human interaction. It is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win-Win also means that all agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and mutually satisfying.”
The Win-Win mindset takes all the competition out of the interaction. According to Covey, “most people think in terms of dichotomies: strong or weak, hardball or softball, win… or lose. Covey goes on to say that this type of thinking is fundamentally flawed. It’s based on power and position rather than on principle or paradigm that states that there is plenty for everybody, that one person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others.”
What others say
I asked several people what a Win-Win Conversation means to them:
“ Win-win is where both parties learn something useful.” – Liz
“All parties involved have been given the opportunity to explain their own views with clarity and understanding making sure all who are listening fully grasp what is being conveyed. Then, leading into a time of evaluating all views that have been contributed with a goal of incorporating the different thoughts into one agreeable outcome that is accepted by all involved.” – Don
“When you first asked me, I thought there’s no way a Win-Win happens because in a situation of finite resources someone loses what the other acquires. But in reality, mankind has survived by the process of bartering, exchanging value for value.” – Larry
Growing up as an only child, living in the basement of my parents business, a nursing home, there were very few real conversations, with me, at least. My parents were both too busy to interact with me unless I did something wrong. As I grew into my teenage years and older I was very quiet because I had not learned how to communicate, to have a meaningful conversation, let alone, have a Win-Win conversation. I began to think there was something wrong with me because when people would talk to me I couldn’t think of anything to say to contribute to the conversation.
As I began my journey into adulthood, I devoured the book “I’m OK, You’re OK” by Thomas A. Harris MD. I learned from reading the conversations in the book how to respond to people, how to begin to communicate my thoughts and feelings.
In college, I learned more about the academic side of communication, which isn’t always appropriate either. The erudite communication style shows off the person’s knowledge but is usually very hard for the other person to connect with.
I have learned much over the years about communications and having conversations with another person. Still, I have much to learn about truly connecting with another person so both parties walk away from the interaction feeling blessed just for being a participant.
Decisions and solutions don’t have to be determined or developed for the conversation to be important and bless both parties. It can be just an exciting, exhilarating, meaningful conversation.
Conversations with someone with ADHD
Just when I thought I was getting closer to mastering the art of a meaningful conversation I was thrown into communication situations with individuals who have ADHD. People with ADHD often jump from subject to subject without any warning. As a general rule, they can be very argumentative and become easily offended and launch into a tirade of defensive verbiage, or begin the blame game. Because of their impulsivity, the conversation threads can be trashed in seconds. Very often listening with focused attention does not happen. It’s a very interesting experience.
It sent me back to the drawing board to really learn and perfect a Win-Win Conversation Style.
Most of us are familiar with the basic four styles of communication: Passive, Aggressive, Passive-Aggressive, Assertive.
Passive: Passive Communicators are usually introverts, like I was, afraid, unwilling, or don’t know how to share their thoughts, feelings, desires, wants or wishes in a meaningful honest way. Many times the person has very low self-esteem and doesn’t feel like what they have to say is important. A passive communication style is also used if the speaker wants to avoid being critical or hurting the other person’s feelings. The passive communication style often leaves the listeners feeling angry, confused, and often suspicious.
Aggressive: The Aggressive Communicator, on the other hand, is similar to what I described above, very argumentative, easily offended, blames and makes accusations. The Aggressive Communicator often over-generalizes by using phrases such as, “You always put me down.” or “You never want to spend time with me.” This communication style often follows when a person is feeling threatened, criticized, or obsessing on negative thoughts and feelings. They usually focus on the other person instead of on the situation. Many people with ADHD are Aggressive Communicators, but they are not the only ones.
Passive-Aggressive: The Passive-Aggressive Communicator is usually passive to the other person’s face, but displays aggression behind the person’s back. The primary goal of the Passive-Aggressive Communicator is to avoid face-to-face conflict. Later, they often become angry or seek revenge in some way. They often voice their real opinion behind the person’s back or to the person after the decision has been made and executed.
Assertive: The Assertive Communicator conducts their conversations in a healthy, non-defensive, non-aggressive, non-passive manner. They ask for what they want and need, voices their opinion in a respectful manner while remaining positive during the communication process. They seek a good mutually-satisfying conversation whether it’s just a conversation or they need to come to a decision or solution. The Assertive Communicator uses “I” statements instead of “You” statement which can be misconstrued as an accusation or blame. He or she also maintains good eye contact with the other person.
One thing to remember in any conversation is that opinions and goals are rarely as different as we might imagine. As we begin the communication process remind yourself to keep an open mind and be flexible in your thinking. Maintaining an amicable mindset which will promote peace and goodwill.
Achieving Win-Win Communications
Get the information needed out in the open
Lay all the concerns, facts, wants, or needs about the problem openly and honestly on the table. When a person is not open it inhibits effective communication.
Focus on the Problem Not The Person
Avoid identifying the other person as an “opponent.” Keep the problem or issue at the forefront of your mind. Try to ignore the personality and personal opinion differences. To do this try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Apply a generous helping of Empathy! In determining a Win-Win solution, focus on the common ground instead of the differences.
Be Aware of Any Emotions or Voice Tones
If you notice negative emotions coming to the surface, evaluate your emotions. Determine where they came from and how you can alleviate them so they do not cause a problem. Remain calm! If you observe an emotion in the other person, do not reflect it or respond in the same manner. If you respond with the same emotions there is a high likelihood of a heated argument. If you do detect an emotion make an effort to understand the other person interest, needs, and concerns.
Be Clear and Use Active Listening
Make sure your communication is clear with as few words as possible to get your meaning across. Use active, attentive listening, paraphrasing what the other person has said for clear understanding.
Use “I” Statements
“I” statements keep the communication from becoming argumentative, accusatory, or blaming.
Focus on Interest, Not Positions
Remember we all see things differently because of where we’ve been, our culture, values, beliefs, status, and responsibility. Our differences make for an interesting world. Seek understanding. You may be surprised.
Be prepared with at least one possible solution to the situation. Make sure to ask the other person for ideas also. It’s possible that combining ideas could bring about a new solution that’s even better.
Mutually Beneficial, Mutually Satisfying
As Stephen Covey has stated, Seek a solution or decision that is mutually beneficial and mutually satisfying for both parties. If you don’t seem to be able to reach this point, together brainstorm for different solutions and be willing to negotiate.
Seeking The Win-Win
“Jerry, let me get this straight. You want me to convince Connie to let you move in with her? Is that right? And Why should I do that?” Debbie asked. Make the problem or situation clear.
Debbie could hear on the phone that Jerry was starting to get agitated. He was breathing harder than before. There was a sharp tone in his voice. Calm any emotions that arise.
“You know what ADHD is. You know how it affects people. If Connie just understood I know we’d be okay. I need you to explain it to her,” he continued talking in rapid fire without giving Debbie a chance to speak or even answering her questions. With ADHD or other disorders, you have to work at getting their attention.
Debbie waited for several minutes before trying to get Jerry’s attention hoping he’d run out of words.
“Jerry, Jerry you need to stop talking a minute.”
“You’ll talk to her for me?” Jerry asked.
“We’ll have a conversation about it and see if we can come up with an agreement,” Debbie said. “Why do you think she’s getting cold feet?” Focus on the problem.
“She doesn’t want me to go to her house and fix dinner for her anymore. She says she doesn’t want me there all the time. But, if I move in then I’ll be there all the time. I know she loves me. She’s said so. I just don’t understand.”
“Let’s back up a little. You said you weren’t working. Is that right?” she asked. “Then where are you living now?”
“I’m living with my sister, but she wants me out.”
“So are you wanting Connie to support you?” Debbie asked. Identifying the real issue.
“Well, it’d be just until I get my disability check. Isn’t that what couples who are in love do? They take care of each other,” he said.
“So you’re wanting Connie to take care of you even though you aren’t married? Do you suppose that could be Connie’s problem? Does she want to take care of you or do you just assume that?”
“I guess I was assuming that she’d want to take care of me, but we’ve never talked about it like that before,” he said.
“Maybe you need to ask her straight-out if she wants to take care of you.”
“Okay. Then can we talk more?” Jerry asked.
“Sure. Call me after you talk to her.”