It’s Not About Winning and Losing, It’s About How We Live With Others

It’s Not About Winning and Losing, It’s About How We Live With Others

I went to a meeting not too long ago.

I go to a lot of meetings. I’m a teacher of the visually impaired, so I go to a lot of special education meetings. I’m a member of the Vestry at Advent, so I go to a lot of meetings for that as well. And, I’m a member of the Missional Ministry Team and we have many meetings in our work together.

I do not need to get into which kind of meeting I was in, because it was a meeting that that began with 2 sides talking at each other, not to each other.

Ever been to one of those? It’s very unfun.

Anyway, my group kept stating their perspective and the other group members (I’ll call them “Group 2”, so I do not have to use the very unflattering They or Them as a label), kept stating their perspective and it was getting very frustrating very fast.

I wanted Group 2 to acknowledge that our perspective was valued and worthy of consideration.

I wanted a ‘win’.

That is what Eric Law, of the Kaleidoscope Institute calls a win/lose dichotomy. In order to feel self-worth or accomplished, we have a need to ‘win’. This can apply to anything. It can apply to games we play or watch with one another, elections, decisions made in government or in organizations, even getting or losing a job.  And, of course, meetings. However, if we subscribe to a need to ‘win’ then intrinsically there is a ‘loss’ somewhere.

That’s when the trouble begins. The losers must blame someone for the loss and winners must protect what they have, as that is also part of the win/lose dichotomy. The result is anger, fear, and frustration ruling the day. Eric Law refers to this as an “unholy fire.”  We forget our connections with each other and with God. We forget what Christ taught us.

How can we stop this kind of thinking?

As it so happens, I’m a member of the Missional Ministry Team. We work with the Kaleidoscope Institute, run by Mr. Eric Law, to learn new ways of connecting and thinking. The goal is to help us create stronger ministry for our Church. Mr. Law’s suggestion for stopping the ‘win/lose’ thinking is to conceptualize how we work as ‘both/and’ nonjudgmental thinking. The basic premise is to ask the question: how can everyone get the most of what they need?

At the meeting I was in, before I got super frustrated, it occurred to me that I wasn’t listening to what Group 2 was saying- I was focusing on what they were not saying. So, I stopped talking for a little bit and paid attention. It was at that point it dawned on me. Group 2 wanted their perspective acknowledged and valued, just like I wanted with my perspective.

The next time I spoke, I used the training I’m lucky enough to have had. I thanked Group 2 for their perspective and for taking the time to meet with us. I repeated the parts of what members of Group 2 said that I guessed (and hoped that I guessed correctly) they valued most. Then I said their points were important and that I agreed with those values.

I did not stop there. I found a possible ‘both’ – the part of their thinking we could all agree on – now I had to provide us with the ‘and’ – the part we could all agree was important for all of us.  I chose to openly hope that the work we were doing would result in success. They agreed.

The frustration at the table went down considerably. The meeting ended rather productively. We were all pleased. We avoided the “unholy fire’ of anger, fear, and frustration.

Sometimes, it is much harder to listen when life does not give us the boosts we want. We need to remember to reach out and listen to the “other side.”  We need to take the time and energy to look at ourselves as part of a community. We all live together and we need to remember that our self-worth needs to be based on how we conduct ourselves, not on whether or not we ‘win’. We all deserve to get what we need.

I like how Mother Theresa put it:

“There is a tremendous strength that is growing in the world through sharing together, praying together, suffering together, and working together.”


I hope I can keep remembering this and working at it until it becomes more second nature!

Yours In Christ,

Karen Rodgers, Vestryperson