If you and I would be in a room together, three of us would be present.  You.  Me.  And our relationship.

It’s been Olympic season, which made me wonder, “What does a gold medal relationship look like?”

Gold Medal Relationships On Ice

Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (ice dancing) swept me off my feet.  Figuratively, that is (although I am writing with a sore knee and bruised thigh having fallen on ice!)

In the rink, we find Tessa and Scott AND their “je ne sais quoi”, that is, their win-win relationship.

Here are comments from and about them:

 “Better together.”

“Trust empowers them to dare.”

 “What a privilege to work with an exceptional athlete and person like you!”

Gold Medal Relationships On Water

It’s more than a male-female thing.

The team of nine Americans who won the 1936 U.S. men’s Olympic eight-oar rowing competition experienced this too.  In the book Boys in the Boat, one of the team members, Joe Rantz, describes the feeling of flow when the eight men rowed in power to the rhythm set by their savvy and demanding coxswain (navigator).

It’s like they were flying across the surface of the water, in total unison, all as one.

On Olympic racing day, one of their rowers ran a high temperature, and the coach recommended they replace him with their backup man.  The other eight men in the boat insisted on competing as the original team.  They performed better together.

Winning Relationships In Outer Space

Such an intense win-win relationship goes beyond sports and youth too.

Space Cowboys

In the movie, Space Cowboys, a retired NASA engineer, Frank Corvin (played by Clint Eastwood), agrees to rescue a threatening Russian satellite only if accompanied by the team he trusts: his fellow retired cohorts, especially William “Hawk” Hawkins (Tommy Lee Jones) who passes flight-worthiness despite being diagnosed with late stage cancer.

Together, they’re better.

How would you describe your personal and professional relationships?

Relationship Test

One of my workshop activities reveals how we view “winning” in relationships.

Participants are paired and placed across from each other with a string of yarn between them.  The instructions are

  • No talking
  • No touching
  • Winning is when the other person crosses the line between the two of you.
  • Go!

This activity comes from Positive Discipline by Dr. Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott.

AHA !

I first tried this activity with groups of parents.  The room overflowed with creativity.  Some folk got on their knees, others pretended to have found something so hilarious the other person should come and check it out, even others pulled out money from their pockets to bribe.  The room buzzed with good humor.

In the debrief, I ask which pairs had a winner (a few), which had no winner (most), and which had two winners.

The “Aha! Moment” came when the two winners demonstrated their double success:  they each cross to the other side at the same time. 

Participants realize how ingrained they are in the win-lose paradigm.

OOPS !

On another occasion I attempted this activity with a group of professional women, all from different organizations.  Upon hearing the instructions and the “Go” a few of them made minor attempts to connect with their partner. Within seconds the room was silent, and no one budged. The cost of losing outweighed the benefit of winning.

Win-Lose Relationships at Work

Too many of us come to work expecting win-lose relationships.

You might recognize these behaviors, either in yourself (!) or in colleagues.

The Attention Seeker

  • Sentences begins with “I”
  • They attend and speak in meetings that do not involve their work

The Controller

  • “When I want your Opinion, I’ll Give it to You”
  • “Do it My Way”

The Power Monger

  • For them to look good, others have to look bad
  • It’s vital to be first, no matter how

The Poisoner

  • “Why are you trying so hard? Management does not care”
  • They spread gossip

The Incapacitator

  • They don’t give you a chance to grow.  It can even sound nice, “Don’t worry.  I’ll just do it.”  The hidden message remains, “You’re not good enough.”
  • They don’t delegate

Breaking Free from the Win-Lose Paradigm

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

Imposing change on others is like pressing down on a ball.  As soon as the pressure is removed, it bounces back to its previous state.

We can, however, change ourselves.  It’s POWERFUL.  It’s like changing the surface against which a ball bounces.  If we acted like a spongy texture (absorbing stress) and replace it with a sturdy, bouncing-off surface, the conversation will fall differently.

Check out the workshop “Communicate Positively Even Under Stress” which brings insights and skills to change your own response in ways to build win-win relationships.

What About You?

What are some win-lose relationships you face at work or in life?  How would you describe them?

Let’s hear the same about the win-win relationships too!

Please share in the comments below.

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