Do you often win but only at the expense of others, or at the other end of the spectrum, do you take care of everyone else at your own expense? Neither extreme leads to effective relationships.
In education, business, sports, or even family life, we are encouraged and rewarded to compete: reach the top of the bell curve, land the biggest account, score the most points, or outperform our siblings. As a result, many people adopt a win-lose mindset: if you get more, that means I get less—so I better get my share first! Others adopt a lose-win mindset: if you get more, there’s nothing I can do about it, so I’ll just give up and let others succeed. Each extreme is driven by your level of maturity and the amount of courage and consideration you show with others.
According to Dr. Stephen R. Covey, there are three levels of maturity:
- Dependence (low maturity): You assume that others are responsible for your feelings, happiness, or success. You say things like, it’s your fault; you drive me crazy; if only you had done things differently; or, if they would get their act together.
- Independence (average maturity): You focus on your own strengths and meet your own needs. You might say, I am responsible; I can do this on my own; I will decide what’s best, but you may be insensitive to the needs of others.
- Interdependence (high maturity). You choose to combine your talents with those of others, creating something greater as a result. You say, together we can do it; we’re better off together than alone; let’s figure out what’s best for both of us.
Highly mature people don’t win at the expense of others, nor do they easily give up on their own needs. They seek mutual benefit by showing a high degree of courage and consideration in every relationship. Courage is the willingness and ability to speak your thoughts respectfully. Consideration is the willingness and ability to seek and listen to others’ thoughts and feelings with respect. Consider the following activity:
1. Identify a relationship at work and another at home, then describe the amount of courage and consideration you show in each one.
2. If your courage is low, you may be thinking lose/win. Try these ideas:
- Write down and practice your opinions with a trusted friend before sharing them publically.
- Tell your boss about your latest success.
- Practice asking for things—to build your confidence, start with things you’re sure you’ll get.
- Commit to contribute at least one idea in your next team meeting.
2. If your consideration is low, you might be thinking win/lose. Try these ideas:
- Wait to speak until several others have shared their ideas.
- Ask for input and repeat back what was said before sharing your ideas.
- Turn off all devices and make eye contact when talking with people.
- Don’t interrupt.
If you can balance courage and consideration in every relationship, you’ll be well on your way to interdependence and to practicing Think We, Not Me.
Think We, Not Me is just one of 15 proven practices to build effective relationships at work that I write about in my new book.