Everyday Compassion: Win-Win or No Deal

I was shopping this past weekend at my favorite mattress store. The mattress I had purchased some months back was defective, and I was working out an exchange with Joe, the salesperson. Joe gave me a nice discount to help me get the mattress that was right for me. We agreed on terms and he printed the invoice.

I was about to sign when I noticed that the invoice had a delivery charge. Since this was a replacement for a defective product, our verbal agreement had been that the delivery charge would be waived.

When I brought it up with Joe, he said, “Fine, I’ll remove the charge.” But his tone conveyed irritation, and his facial expression let me know he was upset.

At that point I had a choice to make. I could have simply taken the discount, which had been agreed upon, and left it at that. But that is not how I like doing business. I was reminded of some wisdom from Stephen Covey, author of the best-selling book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. The fourth habit is: “Think win-win.”

How would that apply in this situation? If I took the free delivery, I would come out of the interaction feeling I ‘won’. It was, after all, what we agreed on. Joe, however, would feel he ‘lost’, that he gave away one discount too many. That would create a win-lose result. And while there might be a short-term gain, there is always a price to pay. A win-lose outcome creates resentment and damages the quality of the relationship. (You can read more about “Think Win-Win” here: https://www.franklincovey.com/the-7-habits/habit-4.html.)

If one wants to lead a “Communicating with Compassion lifestyle”, then one seeks to do things in a win-win manner whenever possible. That means not concluding a transaction if the other party feels it has ‘lost’.

With that in mind, I told Joe that I was not happy with this outcome. I explained that his facial expression and tone of voice were telling me that he was unhappy about this added discount. I would not proceed until we found a way for both of us to be happy.

When he looked at me with dismay, I said to him that I seek to lead a “Communicating with Compassion lifestyle”. I asked him what it would take for him to feel happy about the terms of the exchange.

Joe asked if I’d be willing to meet him halfway on the delivery fee, which would mean that I would pay an additional $40. I said I’d be happy to do that.

Joe’s face lit up, and so did mine. We had found a win-win solution. It is the best way to build relationships. And it is deeply satisfying to me to treat people with kindness.

Even if I would never have to do business with Joe again, acting in this gracious manner is very rewarding. And if I ever did need to speak with Joe, knowing that I had treated him graciously would make it more comfortable and more likely to produce a favorable outcome.