Think Win/Win

In our busy day-to-day lives, as we try to do everything–jobs, children, home, marriage–stopping to think what everyone in our family needs may not be a high priority. When we’re caring for small children, there never seems to be enough time, enough money, enough sleep, or enough hours in the day. It’s difficult to find the time to step back and look at the big picture when we are going from one crisis or deadline to another, trying to meet our family’s needs.

As I’ve mentioned before, the principles found in Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, have been extremely helpful to me. “Think Win/Win” is one of those principles. Making a habit of thinking “Win/Win” can help everyone in the family have his or her needs met and keep family life in balance.

A key question that can help us focus on family needs is from the Don and Jeanne Elium’s book, Raising a Family.

“What does this family need now, including me?” Too often, as parents, we forget to think win/win, and our personal needs go unmet.

Using this key question can help us focus and open a creative discussion with everyone in the family about priorities.

One family I know in Connecticut used win/win thinking and the question “What does this family need right now, including me?”

Katherine, the ten-year-old, wanted a piano at home instead of practicing at her grandmother’s house. Mom and Dad were reluctant to give up space, money and quiet for a piano along with dealing with one-year-old Frank and four-year-old Steve.

After a week of tossing ideas back and forth, the family decided to sell their dining room furniture and turn the dining room into a music room. Mom and Dad realized they didn’t use the dining room as much as they all enjoyed playing music. When they thought win/win, Katherine got a space to practice her music, which also included playing violin and flute. Steve asked to start violin lessons, and Mom took up the guitar again.

It all began with a family meeting where everyone wrote out their needs and then started thinking win/win. Alternatives appeared, such as not having a dining room, selling the dining room furniture to pay for an electronic piano that could be used with headphones, and installing French style doors in the dining room opening.

Mom had never considered giving up her dining room. She was surprised how thrilled she felt selling the furniture to a friend that ran a cooking school. Dad was delighted to get a “new” room without remodeling or taking out a loan. Katherine was glad to practice anytime she liked without having to worry about her brother’s bedtime or naps. Steve was happy practicing his violin with his sister in the new music room. One-year-old Frank enjoyed bouncing and dancing to live music. Extended family and friends were treated to concerts and sing-a-longs. Win/win.

Make a habit of thinking win/win by taking a half hour once a month to ask everyone in your family, “What does this family need right now, including me?”

Give your imaginations time to consider the possibilities and enjoy an outcome that may exceed your expectations.

P.S. You might enjoy the 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People Series on the For School Leaders Blog.

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