How can I use questions to build a win-win solution

We don’t think that’s really the right question. The right question, or rather the first question, is “Why are asking questions the only way to build a win-win solution?”

First, what is a “win-win” solution? Simply put, it’s a solution that works for both of us, that meets both of our interests – our needs, our wants, our concerns, our hopes. Both of us must get what we need if a solution is actually “win-win”, and not “win-lose”. So then it follows that if we both must get our needs met for a win-win solution, how do we find out about each other’s needs? We can’t even start to look for a win-win outcome unless we know what a “win” for each of us looks like. Then and only then can we look for solutions in which we both win.

So the next question is simple: How do find out about each other’s needs? And the simple answer is: Ask. We’ll say it again, louder, for dramatic effect: ASK! In other words, only by asking questions will I uncover your needs, and therefore be able to find a solution that works for us both – the elusive “win-win”.

Now, finally, can we answer the last question, the one in the title of this blog: How can I use questions to build a win-win solution? The short answer, as simple as it sounds, is back to this. Just Ask. The way to use questions to build a win-win outcome is by, well, asking questions. Start there.

Next, you may ask, is: Which questions? What are the right questions? The short answer is: It almost doesn’t matter. It is the very fact that one person has shifted to questions about interests, that triggers the other person to shift into focusing on interests. This is the First Shift, leading to the Second Shift. And both shifts engage our Blue Brains. From BrainFishing:

The First Shift, the foundational shift to BrainFishing is this – make the conscious choice to ask questions. Regularly. Yep, that’s it. That simple.

And as you may have figured out … the First Shift is what actually creates the Second Shift. This Second Shift occurs in the brain of the other person, the person you are communicating with when you ask them a question. They shift from working out of their Red Brain, to engaging with you from their Blue Brain. They start working with you instead of against you. They become curious, they participate in creating sustainable win-win solutions to problems, and they help to establish a relationship based on consideration and respect. A good question is more than an invitation to think – it’s an invitation to engage and collaborate.

So the First Shift – a conscious choice to ask good, relevant questions – generates the Second Shift, the move to deep and engaged problem solving.

It is only when we are in this engaged problem solving that we can find a win-win outcome.

Now, to make sure we’re not avoiding the question that started all of this – which questions should I ask? What are the best questions?

For this final question, the answer is this: context is everything. We all need to ask questions that uncover interests, and in any given situation, it is the context that matters. That said, we should all be familiar with a range of good questions, questions of different types, to help us with different situations and contexts. And that is what Chapter Two of BrainFishing is all about.

Build your own tackle box. Use Information Gathering questions liberally, focus toward solutions with Problem Solving questions, use Acknowledging Statements to stay in the Blue Brain zone, and when needed, ask Reality Changing questions to shift thinking, to find new solutions or ideas. Each problem is unique, and our questions must honour that uniqueness. But the common answer is simple – ask questions, listen, and seek to meet both parties’ interests. Almost everything will be win-win from this approach!