Instead of Always Aiming to Win, Agree to Agree

You may not always come out on top with this approach, but you'll improve your odds of being happy more often.

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By Jim Joseph


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In my latest book, Out and About Dad, I devote an entire chapter to just getting along with others, in this particular case my ex-wife and the mother of my two children. The chapter is titled "Agree to Agree."

"Agree to agree" is a fundamental principle for all of my relationships across every aspect of my life. I go into every situation, whether at work or at home, with the perspective that we are going to agree to agree by the time we are done.

I don't mean to sound naïve, but I honestly don't understand why people fight and argue so hard. "Digging in my heels" just isn't in my repertoire.

Related: 11 Tips to Negotiate Like a Pro

This was particularly true in my divorce years ago. I went into every situation trying to agree to agree. As I write in my book:

"The two adults are done, so get over it. The kids are going through enough as it is, so why expose them to any more than they need to see? Trust me, I'm not saying it's easy, but it's essential to co-parenting of any form.

"I was lucky, in a way, because my kids were very young; I'm not sure that they really knew what was going on. I'm sure I never gave them enough credit for understanding what was going on, but I wanted to minimize the impact any way that I could.

"I made my own personal decision that I wasn't going to let the kids see behind the curtain; there was no reason they ever had to see any upset from me or from their mother."

I apply "agree to agree" to tough situations at work as well. I always go into difficult discussions and stressful negotiations knowing that we will reach an agreement and that both parties will walk away feeling satisfied.

Related: Everything I Needed to Know About Negotiating I Learned Watching My Dad Make a Huge Buck on Some Old Furniture

The problem is that not everyone holds to my approach, and I get it. Time after time I see people wanting to come out winners, at all costs, even if it costs the deal or damages the relationship. So they negotiate hard, refuse to back down and attack on all fronts.

That part I just don't get. I just don't believe that always wanting to win is sustainable. How could it be? You can't win all of the time, and I'd wager that at best you can only win half of the time. When you "agree to agree" your odds grow exponentially that you'll be happy with the outcome.

You see, if someone always has to win, then someone always has to lose too. By definition, you are going to lose just as much as you are going to win -- if you're lucky and good at negotiating, or bullying, or arguing.

Those are verbs I don't really like. I like "agreeing."

Granted, I don't want to lose either, but I also don't need to win. I just need to walk away satisfied from my interactions -- both personal and professional. This is why I always agree to agree. Give it a try, and let me know if you are more satisfied.

Related: This Strategy Will Make Negotiations Less Painful

Jim Joseph

Marketing Master - Author - Blogger - Dad

Jim Joseph is a commentator on the marketing industry. He is Global President of the marketing communications agency BCW, author of The Experience Effect series and an adjunct instructor at New York University.

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