Dissecting The 7 Habits by Stephen R. Covey: Habit #4 ‘Win-Win Solutions’

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In the second part of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey explains the value of interdependence. Interdependence (working with others, relying on each other…etc) is not the same as dependence (needing others). Relying on other people is not a bad thing, but it’s when someone only depends on others and not themselves that it becomes a problem.

All social beings have a natural disdain for members of their society that exploit the group or that take and provide nothing. For this reason, complete independence without consideration for others is not considered a good human quality (or a good ‘social being’ quality).

Habits 4, 5 and 6 talk about interdependence, which can be seen as the combination of dependence and independence.

How We Measure Our Self-Worth

According to Covey, many of us learn to base our worth by competing with and comparing ourselves to others (for example, a better job or better house than our neighbor). We assume that winning only means defeating someone else, basically creating ‘Win-Lose’ situations in all parts of our lives when dealing with others. Human life becomes a zero-sum game as a result.

Habit number 4 “Think Win-Win” asks the reader not to view the world as a competetive arena, but as a cooperative one. It suggests to seek solutions that are mutually beneficial to all human interactions. Win-Win is not about being nice, says Covey. When one side benefits more than the other (win-lose), the losing side becomes resentful and distrustful in the long term, thus causing problems that wouldn’t have arised had things been more fair.

“In the long run, if it isn’t a win for both of us, we both lose. That’s why win-win is the only real alternative in interdependent realities.” DR. STEPHEN R. COVEY

The answer to the problem of the zero-sum game, as cliché as it sounds, is love. Where we concentrate our capacity to love determines our behavior and actions. Here are some equations we came up with to better understand how we behave according to where we direct our love.

  • Love For Self + No Love For Others = Overconfident & No Empathy. (Narcissistic)
  • No Love For Self + Love For Others = Insecure & Empathetic. (Altruistic)
  • No Love For Self + No Love For Others = Insecure & No Empathy. (Misanthropic)
  • Love For Self + Love For Others = Confident & Empathetic. (Mature)

At first glance, being altruistic might seem like a great quality to have, but that isn’t necessarily true because being truly good involves loving yourself as well. Empathy is necessary for humans to cooperate with each other, however having empathy for others without love for yourself means you will end up leaving yourself out of the equation (that’s a win-lose situation, not win-win).

Thinking Win-Win

There are 3 traits required in order for someone to develop the habit of thinking of win-win solutions successfully. Those traits are:

  • Integrity: sticking with your true feelings, values, and commitments
  • Maturity: expressing your ideas and feelings with courage and consideration for the ideas and feelings of others
  • Abundance Mentality: believing there is plenty for everyone

© franklincovey.com

As you can see, win-win solutions involve everyone’s best interests (including yourself) to be considered. There needs to be a balance in where we focus our attention and love in order for us to be balanced individuals.

Being a balanced member of a healthy society means to provide as much as one benefits. Exploiting or being exploited by a system only serves to cause more problems in the end, so it is wise to avoid systems that operate in such a way.

Becoming Interdependent is, in a way, accepting your own humanity and fragility while recognizing the power that comes from sticking together. It is an acceptance of our strengths and weaknesses, but also a balance of them. Complete dependence on others leaves us weak and unreliable while complete independence from other people leaves us alone, miserable and unfulfilled.

We hope you found this article useful. Please share your thoughts below and leave a like if you enjoyed reading! Click here if you missed our analysis of Habit # 3 Put First Things First.

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