Habit 4: Win Win – How to Build Deep Relationships For Success

Habit 4: Win Win focuses on how to develop positive and rewarding relationships, built around a “we both win” mindset.

Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People teaches us that people should always strive for a mutually beneficial outcome and never come out on top at the expense of someone else. Here’s how to get started and why win-win is a normally a better option.

What is habit 4: Win win?

Stephen covey tells us in his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” that instead of I win – you lose or you win – I lose bargaining, if you change your mindset from competition to collaboration, and a “we both win” mindset, you can overcome challenges that you may not have been able to on your own.

Win-win relationships should be looked for in all walks of life, as it not only helps us come up with innovative and diversified ideas, but it builds longer lasting and deeper relationships in life.

The Story So Far:

Here’s how far you’ve come: you’ve developed the understanding and dependence on yourself. This has been established from building the habits of 1, 2 and 3.

Habit 1: Be Proactive  It’s easy to feel like success is a result of luck or being in the right place at the right time, but it takes an incredible amount of hard work and dedication to achieve professional success. When we implement this habit, we take control of our lives and become the creator of it.

Habit 2: Start with the end in mindAs part of knowing who you are and what you can control, this next step is to create the goals and objectives to move towards. This creates clarity and gives you principle centred objectives across your entire life.

Habit 3: Put first things first – Getting clear on what you need to work on each day and week to achieve your goals is the next step. In this habit, you’ve learned to prioritise important actions and discard unimportant ones.

Habit 4: Win Win – Focus on Interdependence

From habit 4 onwards, we move into the realm of building relationships with others.

Thinking of win-win is not something you think of every now and again and in fleeting moments. It should be a way of life and how you think and behave. Covey points out that it’s what forms your character. 

It’s a “frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit from all human interactions.”

Win-Win highlights that agreements and ideas should always be mutually beneficial to both parties. Noone should walk away as a loser when negotiating a working relationship or terms.

For this to work, all parties must feel positive about the situation, so they can positively commit to the resulting action plan, ultimately believing in it as they implement it.

Win win is about cooperation not competition.

The 6 paradigms

Covey identified that there are 6 paradigms when discussing how to collaborate with another person.

We all naturally lean towards one of these paradigms.

This means that we tend to see the world through this mindset, and it naturally guides us in how to approach teamwork and collaboration.

Win / Win – We all Win Paradigm

In order to create a paradigm, we must first have a paradigm, and Covey’s paradigm is that “there is no such thing as a win-lose situation.”

This means that no matter what, people are always either winning or learning, and there is no such thing as a “loser.”

In this stance, we work hard to come to an agreement where noone feels like they have lost out. This “both parties win” approach helps us to think about the other party in their position.

We stand in their shoes, so to speak, to understand their needs and problems. When we do this, we can better understand solutions that both parties will more than likely accept.

The “Win / Lose” Paradigm

The win-lose paradigm in habit 4: Win win, is all about competition. Your success can only be had as the expense of the other person.

Leaders with the Win/Lose mentality use an authoritarian style of leadership, and are more likely to use their authority, power, status or personality to get what they want.

The problem with this paradigm is that The Win/Lose paradigm is most people’s go-to when it comes to life. Sports, school, and sibling rivalries are all forms of the Win/Lose paradigm that’s deeply embedded in our minds.

The long term ramification of this approach is that you’ll build long term resentment. People will soon lose trust and confidence in you, as they know you’ll compete for bettermanship.

The challenge is to be able to see win-lose in the same light as the lose-win paradigm.

When you think of win-lose as the lose-win paradigm, you’ll start to see the other person’s perspective and you’ll find yourself coming up with win-win solutions.

The reality is that in most occasions, Covey points out that life can be conquered using win-win agreements. In fact deep relationships, great understanding and powerful solutions often result from working agreements out that both parties will love and benefit from.

The “Lose / Win” Paradigm

People with this mindset often resist the opportunity to stand their ground, opting to take the path of least resistance in negotiation.

Soft by nature, these people are happy to concede to appease others. They’re always looking for ways to give, and please – at the expense of themselves.

Some people with a Lose/Win mindset tend to lose not only in their interactions, but also in their own self-esteem. They tend to suppress their feelings as they often feel overpowered by others, as well.

The problem is, suppressing your emotions can lead to tension and anxiety, which can cause respiratory, nervous, and circulatory problems in the long time.

Your health suffers the more you suppress your own emotions and follow the lose/win paradigm.

Lose / Lose

When two people with a Win/Lose paradigm clash and don’t budge, they can quickly resort to an antagonistic ‘Lose/Lose’ mentality.

In this mindset, you want the other person to lose so badly that you are willing to take a hit as well, just out of spite; “If they’re losing then of course I must be winning!”

Covey highlighted the example of a husband and wife getting divorce; the Judge orders the man to surrender half of his assets to his wife. In turn, the man took his $10,000 car and sold it for $50, giving his wife $25.

I’m sure some would smile whilst reading this, but Covey points out that this is a classic lose/ lose confrontational approach, whereby noone wins in life.

The result is getting so focused on the demise of your enemy that you become blinded by any other outcome. It’s not surprising that Covey argues that this should be avoided at all costs. Resentment and a ‘Misery loves company’ mindset often follows.

Win Paradigm (Look out for yourself)

The person seeking a win, is not really worried about the outcome. They are more interested in winning and not concerned if someone loses, per se.

If you have a win mentality, then that means you want to get what YOU want regardless of who wins or loses. The Win paradigm is all about every man for himself – it’s not concerned with the other person and expects them to take care of themselves as well.

It’s not hard that the theme of habit 4: Win Win, suggests that the win paradigm is not the most fair and synergistic way of building rapport and relationships.

Where one person fails and the other succeeds only creates an imbalance in life, steeped with resentment and distrust as the outcomes of such an approach, in exactly the same way as the win-lose paradigm does.

Win Win or No Deal Paradigm

Win win is what we’re always striving for.

It builds rapport. It builds deep relationships. And it allows everyone to benefit.

It can be hard reaching a Win/Win agreement, but it’s not impossible. You must keep engaged in dialogue and try to understand where the opposite party is coming from. This will help you get over potential impasses.

It is important that both parties discuss their own perspective without feeling threatened or judged by the other person. If done correctly, one party will come up with something original which neither could have thought about on their own.

The Win/Win or No Deal paradigm is crucial for any negotiation, because it helps you to find a solution that benefits both parties and also if that’s impossible then know when to walk away from the deal.

This way your goals align with what they want too. And if it does result in a no deal, relationships are kept and values honoured. You never know, in the future, another opportunity may arise from the good will kept.

The Real World

In reality, not all situations will present themselves as perfect win-win scenarios.

One of the challenges in life is knowing which paradigm to use when there are so many different options.

Typically in a sporting environment or any game of ascendancy, it’s not appropriate to opt for the win win scenario.

In these cases, there are clear winners and losers. And rightly so.

Alternatively, when dealing with interpersonal interaction, then the win-win method will work nearly all the time. If both parties don’t win, then they tend to lose in the long run.

It’s important to ensure you have a productive relationship with the other party, but it’s difficult when they feel like you are just trying to win without concern for their feelings.

Win/Lose or Lose/Win will only bring temporary happiness and long-term resentment if one side wins at the expense of another.

But either way, there are no winners in:

  • Win/Lose, Lose/ Win and win – The losing side will know they have lost out. This causes negativity and a tendency to ‘not do business’ with them again. For this reason, if you win now, you may lose later through lost opportunities in the future;
  • Lose/lose – is a zero sum game. Noone benefits. As a result, relationships could well breakdown or never be built in the first place. This lose / lose often causes distrust because of the intense needed to win.

At the Heart of Habit 4: Win Win, is Character

We mentioned that character is a hugely important factor in seeing the world in terms of a win-win relationship, where everyone can benefit.

Covey identifies that there are 3 key traits to this:

  • Integrity;
  • Maturity;
  • An Abundance Mentality.


You can’t win if you don’t know what a “win” even looks like. Knowing yourself is the best way to find out! This means knowing your values and principles. Your decisions will be made around those that you created in habits 1 and 2. The key thing is to be clear about what you live for and the values you hold.

Maintaining these principles gives you integrity and builds your character, particularly when you deal with ohter people and negotiate, too.


Being mature means balancing the courage to express your goals and expectations with consideration for others.

Courage allows you to:

  • Pursue what is necessary. I.E. What fits your goals and values;
  • Without sacrificing relationships, in which it’s important that people understand one another’s perspective.

An Abundance Mentality

An Abundance Mentality is a state of mind where you believe there are plenty:

  • Of opportunities;
  • Resources;
  • And happiness for everyone.

You can only see the possibility of both people winning if you believe one person’s success doesn’t come at the expense of another person’s success.

Having an abundance mindset means that there’s always an opportunity for both to flourish. You just have to find it.

The Second Element is Win-Win Relationships

By endorsing this mindset, you can build great trusting relationships, open for future work and repeat business.

This is a self perpetuating cycle. The more you care about other people’s views, the deeper the relationship you can create.

The deeper the relationships, the more you can build rapport and win win relationships. Here’s the reason:

Both sides must care about each other in order to work towards and agree a win win solution in a situation. This can obviously be tedious and tiresome, but it hangs on the balance of respect, care and trust in each other. The stronger these components are, the more likely you’ll get that win-win scenario.

How to Implement win win relationships:

Build your active listening skills. Truly learn to listen in conversation. Don’t go through the motions. Listen empathically, so you walk in their shoes. This is a very powerful skill to develop in life and relationships.

We’ve written a guide on active listening, to help you get started.

Focus on making deposits in the ’emotional bank account’. This term refers to little gestures that show that you’re listening and which shows that you care about their perspective and viewpoints.

Here are some examples of gestures that can fill that bank account up:

  • Give compliments freely;
  • Smile;
  • Compliment people on their clothes, hair, or shoes;
  • Offer to help someone;
  • Buy them a coffee or their lunch;
  • Admit to making a mistake;
  • Keep commitments;
  • Clarify expectations;
  • Maintain your personal integrity.

Next Comes Win Win Agreements

The more you build up ‘reserves’ in the emotional bank account, the more you can build rapport and trust and find win-win relationships with that person(s).

When you do, the next step is to build win-win agreements.

These stipulate how you’ll work together and what the intended outcomes are. Covey referred to this as Stewardship Delegation.

How to Implement Win-Win Agreements:

There are 5 steps to getting a win win agreement, whereby everyone knows what they get from it.

  1. Identify and agree on the desired results. This comes from a team approach – you don’t dictate, but merely discuss outcomes until you both reach the required output;
  2. Explain and agree how to get the results, as well as identifying any possible pitfalls that you both need to be aware of;
  3. List what resources will be needed. Think:
    1. People;
    2. Time;
    3. Cost;
    4. Technical skills;
    5. Equipment, etc.
  4. Create accountability by agreeing the standards and targets to work to, as well as frequency of check ins;
  5. Describe the consequences of failure and make its impact clear. These consequences can fall within the following categories:
  • Opportunity – training, benefits and development;
  • Responsibility – improvement or reduction in responsibility;
  • Psychological – Respect, social approval, credibility, any status losses;
  • Monetary – bonuses, allowances, fines.

When there is clarity in terms of what the expectations are, and the benefits of succeeding, then the other party tend to be more empowered to work to the plan and make things happen. This can lead to very fruitful and successful win-win relationships and working patterns.

Habit 4: Win Win – Summary

In most circumstances where interpersonal relationships are involved, the paradigm to work to is the win-win model.

Working with people and seeking win-win agreements in all walks of life, helps build trust and rapport. When it comes to figuring problems, the more heads, the better. Using win-win means that everyone can benefit and new ideas and solutions can be gained over someone that tries doing everything themselves.

To be successful in life, you need to work with others and be open and approachable. The win-win paradigm helps you to think about relationships in a new light.