Seek Win-Win Solutions: Collaboration Strategies for Negotiating Differences

We often view conflict resolution or management as requiring a winner or loser. Even in compromise, the resolution is too often evaluated in terms of how much was sacrificed or lost.

An alternative approach is collaboration in which all parties in the conflict seek to blend rather than eliminate differences. In this approach to conflict resolution, the ideas of both (or more) parties are added – or “linked” – to achieve a win-win solution whereas in compromise ideas are deleted – or “sacrificed” – to find a resolution that is a lower standard of satisfaction.

Here are some ideas:

Strategies are different from solutions.

  • Strategies are ideas or skills for finding a solution or creating peacekeeping skills when a solution does not seem possible.
  • Solutions are agreements or behaviors that solve the problem, even if over a long time.
  • Try both.

Search for more options.

  • Seek for a third option that takes both points of view into account.
  • Brainstorm many options. Don’t judge them, just throw them onto the negotiating table. The more options, the more we have to work with.
  • Ask others who share your dilemmas for their ideas, strategies, and solutions
  • Overcome the need to seek simple solutions; understand that blending differences simplify the process of achieving dynamic solutions

Experiment: Complex problems often require complex solutions.

  • Try out various options for short periods.
  • Evaluate together any parts of the experiments that helped.
  • Focus on what worked, tinker with what did not. • Get support from those people who support all sides, strategies, and solutions.

Restore justice: Witness the hurts.

  • Be open to hear how the other person has been harmed by your actions or by those who are similar to you.
  • Make amends: Healing occurs when those in position of power (e.g., leaders, parents, authorities) give back power (e.g., rights, choices, protection, and dignity) to the minority.

Work toward peace but have realistic expectations of resolution.

  • Identify your unrealistic expectations for yourself and others. Unrealistic expectations create failure, anger/frustration, and despair.
  • Foster autonomy, agency/choice, and self-determination: Diversity is the rule.
  • Accept reality and the limits of yourself and others, instead of trying to change you or them.
  • Grieve and adapt/reinvest in new dreams that carry the essence of the old dreams.
  • Continue to promote peacemaking efforts: Contribute energy toward resolution.

Bibliography for Resolving Conflicts

Bach, George, & Wyden, Peter. (1983). The Intimate Enemy: How to Fight Fair in Love and Marriage. Avon.

Beattie, M. (1986). Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself. Hazelden.

Fisher, R., Patton, B. M., & Ury, W. L. (1992). Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Houghton Mifflin. Gottman, John. (2000). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Three Rivers Press.

Gottman, J., & DeClaire, J. (2001). The Relationship Cure: A Five-Step Guide For Building Better Connections With Family, Friends, And Lovers. Harmony.

Hendrix, H (2005). Getting the Love You Want. Pocket Books.

Jampolsky, G. G. (2004). Love Is Letting Go of Fear. Ten Speed Press. Katie, B. (2005). I Need Your Love – Is That True? : How to Stop Seeking Love, Approval, and Appreciation and Start Finding Them Instead. Harmony.

Keel, P. (2000). All About Us. Broadway Books. Kegan, R. (1998). In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life. Harvard University Press.

Linden, P. (2007). Embodied Peacemaking: Body Awareness, Self-Regulation, and Conflict Resolution. Can be found at

Markman, H. J., Stanley, S. M., & Blumberg, S. L. (2010). Fighting for Your Marriage. JosseyBass (the latest edition has a DVD showing the skills described in the book).

Rosenberg, M. B. (2004). Getting Past the Pain Between Us: Healing and Reconciliation Without Compromise (Nonviolent Communication Guides). Puddledancer Press.

Siegel, D., & Hartzell, M. (2004). Parenting from the Inside Out. Tarcher.

Smith, M. J. (1985). When I Say No, I Feel Guilty. Bantam. Thomas, K. W. (2002). Introduction to conflict management: Improving performance using the TKI. CPP Publishing. Ury, W. (1999). Getting to Peace. Viking Adult Books.


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