“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.” – Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale
When I first heard this quote it felt as if someone hit me across my chest with a hockey stick. (Being an ice hockey player I can assure you this is an accurate analogy). It was a sobering moment.
I’m not a military veteran so while I haven’t been to war, I have escalated arguments with family, friends, colleagues and romantic partners to relationship DEFCON 1. And I realized something that at first sounds great, but is actually a terrifying statement: I never lost an argument.
argumentsLet me explain. My endurance for argument was like no one else’s I had ever known. I had many tools with which to win. I’m a fairly smart guy so I could use debate tactics, rational arguments/logic and forensic analysis. As a sales/marketing/PR pro I could use creative word-smithing. Educated in spiritual psychology I could use any number of ideas within religion/spirituality, psychology or philosophy. With a propensity for rage I could use anger manifested as wildly animated gestures and yelling. Or, as a recalcitrant asshole, I could simply just win by attrition, wearing my adversary down, or worse, by just being downright mean and nasty. Whatever the tool, I would win.
The price of winning
Note I didn’t say “I was always right.” I said, “I would win.” And I can tell you that winning only to discover either that 1) I was on the wrong side of the fight, or 2) I had beaten down and alienated someone I cared about, was no victory. Sometimes, in order to REALLY win, I have to be OK with losing. I’ve lost important relationships because I won too many arguments. And what was won when “winning” was the only prize? My ego was proud. My soul was devastated.
always rightIn a hockey fight, one player wins and one loses. And both spend the same five minutes in the box not scoring goals. However, if one player starts throwing punches and the other swallows his pride and just turtles, the one throwing punches goes into the box and the other has a good chance of staying on the ice – potentially scoring a game-winning goal. I’ve been in the box when my team got scored on. Even if I won the fight that put me in there it was never a proud moment. It was shameful.
In love, it was easy to see who I wanted to be: Loving, kind, generous, thoughtful, considerate, romantic, etc. In an argument – war – I learned who I was: Someone who was willing to do anything to win. I would abdicate my power, compromise my integrity, twist words – anything – most of which was subconscious. Academically I knew that wasn’t OK with me. Still, I seemed unable to stop myself. It cost me a great deal of self-respect (not to mention respect from others), as well as a lot of time in self-judgment, guilt, shame and generally feeling like a grade-A goon. (For the non-hockey fan, a “goon” is a player whose sole purpose is to hit other players and start fights.)
You won the fight and lost the prize. Now what?
Self-reflection is important. After a particularly ugly series of arguments with my girlfriend at the time – which ultimately contributed largely to the demise of the relationship – I thought about the arguments we had. We said and did things that, had we done them early in the relationship, would have ended it quickly. So I asked myself a question: When did that become OK? At what point did I decide that I had to win and was willing to do anything to ensure a victory?
I can’t say I know the definitive answer to this question and I’m not sure it matters. But the concept is that once X amount of time passed, I seemed to be willing to do and/or tolerate being done that with which I would not have been OK earlier on. After X time, I would do anything to win. Great! Now I had my concept template!
Now here’s the fun part… How we do anything is how we do everything. If I am willing to do/tolerate things later in my romantic relationships that I would not have earlier in them – if I, at some point, am willing to do anything to win – where else in my life or business am I now running that template? Where else am I willing to say/do things to “win” that would not have been imaginable before? Where else am I about to win the argument and lose the prize? And where in that process do I currently stand? By identifying these things, I developed a process by which to stop this template: Winning by losing. And you can do this as well to facilitate a win-win outcome.
Winning by losing
What is currently happening in your business or life where are you about to win the fight and lose the prize? Focus on that and use these eight steps to win by losing.
Step 1: Quiet your ego
Tell your ego, “Thank you. I appreciate what you’re offering. Here’s a lollipop. Now please go sit down.” The more the ego is engaged, the more jagged the pill of “losing” seems. Let your ego know that sometimes the price of winning (or keeping) the prize is losing the fight. No one cares who won a hockey fight. They care about the game winning goal.
Step 2: Release the judgments of everyone involved
If the words “should” or “shouldn’t” are anywhere within your script when thinking or talking about the situation, let them go. Focus on what is happening. It is neither “good” nor “bad.” There is no “right” or “wrong.” It just “is.” If you have to be “right,” you’ve already lost – by “winning.”
win-winStep 3: Identify your clear, positive intention
Now that you don’t need to be “right,” what is it you really want out of this situation? What is the outcome you desire and how important is it? What will it cost you? What are you willing to pay? Be clear and stay on the point of what is desired. Do NOT focus on what you DON’T want. Only that which you do.
Step 4: Communicate with vulnerability and accountability
I know. This feels dangerous. But in order to make progress, we need to tell the other parties what it is we want from a place of accountability and without blaming or judging them. Be candid and transparent.
Step 5: Listen
Give others involved the space to respond. Listen for understanding. This is not an opportunity to seek the “weaknesses” in their argument or desires. This is the time to consider how to integrate what they want with what you want. Where are our desires aligned? Where do they differ?
Step 6: Mirroring
Reflect back to the other parties what they have said to you so as to confirm that you understand, and that they have been heard.
Step 7: Co-creating solutions
Coming from a place of “partnership” instead of “adversary,” highlight where your desires and theirs are aligned. Notice where desires are out of alignment and consider ways to make these things fit together. The idea isn’t to get them to bend to what you want. The idea is to find the creative ways to make things fit together, or change them so as to find a new ways that do fit to get the desired outcomes.
Step 8: Gratitude
It is impossible to be upset when in gratitude. It’s a gas/clutch relationship. If we are grateful for the opportunity to get what we all want, to deepen our personal and professional relationships and to better understand ourselves and each other, we can make better, faster progress than we can if we’re determined to get our way.
I’m not always right. I’ll say that again just to remind myself: I’m not always right. Neither are you. More importantly, we don’t need to be. So knowing that, how can we work together so that we can all have what we want? Any situation can be win-win if we really believe that is true. There are no impasses, only limiting beliefs.
It’s your kingdom. Make it REIGN.

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About the Author -

Executive coach and motivational speaker Chris M. King facilitates the mind shift necessary for professionals and organizations to achieve authentic success and empowerment. Clients experience productivity increases of up to 40%, freedom from burnout and overwhelm, clarity in times of transition, dramatically improved work/life balance, answers to "what's next," creative solutions for innovation, and an overall increase in satisfaction in career and in life. And he does all of this without ever giving advice! Chris doesn't show them THE way. He guides them in finding THEIR way. An emerging thought leader in the men's movement, Chris also works with professional men and women on accountability, vulnerability, and empowerment. He specifically addresses the issues associated with mid-life crises and Peter Pan Syndrome. He is a volunteer for ManKind Project International, a contributing author to The Good Men Project and Elephant Journal, and is honored to be working with Sam Morris as a contributor to Zen Warrior Training®, helping people achieve self-mastery. Chris is also a coach at Project Bully Buster, coaching teens as they navigate the challenges of adolescence. He is honored to work with and support organizations dedicated to the men’s movement, to women's issues, and, as brother to a special needs sister, the US Special Olympics. Chris is currently working on his first book.

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