3.15 Negotiating for Win-Win


Though there are situations when the other approaches are useful, for negotiating with a former spouse the collaborative style can lead to the best outcomes. As stated before the collaborative style focuses on a win-win outcome and allows for creative solutions.

The classic example that illustrates this method is the orange example. Imagine Bob and Suzy, they both want an orange but they only have one between them. The compromising method would split the orange in half, so each would receive an equal share. The collaborative method would dig a bit deeper to find out what their underlying interests are. Bob really only wants the orange peel for his baking and Suzy just wants to eat the orange flesh. So a collaborative solution would be to give the orange peel to Bob and the flesh to Suzy this way they are both satisfied and you have a win-win.

Of course not all situations in life are so simple. But the method of working towards an arrangement that both parties are satisfied with is a productive way to negotiate and allows you to come to more satisfying and creative agreements.


3 Keys to Collaborative Negotiations

  1. Understand your Goals (ACL)

The first step is for you to figure out what you want and what range of possible solutions might be acceptable to you. Classify your negotiations goals according to this formula…

Aspire to – What do you hope for? What is the best possible outcome?

Content with – Where is the middle ground? What would you say is not good, but not bad?

Live with – What is the minimum acceptable solution? Where’s your bottom line?

This classification is known as your ACL. It reflects your best case scenario, middle ground and your worst case scenario. For example, you may aspire to have the kids weekdays and every other weekend and during holidays, you’d be content with weekdays and shared holidays and could live with shared 50/50 parenting time 2 weeks on 2 weeks off.

It is important to understand and categorize your goals before negotiating. This will allow you to get a better understanding of your own limits. It will help you have a framework for establishing win-win solutions for both sides. Knowing your goals before you start negotiating also helps you avoid bad agreements. It helps you create good agreements that will last longer and work better for you both.  


  1. Understand Positions and Interests

There are two ways to negotiate; position-based or interest-based. Position negotiating tends to be rigid and adversarial. Eg – this is my position, take it or leave it. The problem with positional negotiations is that you get too rooted into your position and lose sight of what’s important to you.

Interest-based negotiations tend to be much more creative and flexible. Interests are what your positions are based one. They are what drive you to want what you want. These negotiations are more likely to result in optimal solutions.

Consider these examples…

Position:     I want $50,000

Interest:      I want to be financially independent and I want the work I put into the family to be recognized.

Position:     I want the kids for New Year’s Day so they can visit their grandparents during the traditional celebration.

Interest:      I want the kids to have a good relationship with their grandparents and to appreciate their cultural traditions.   

In the first example, it may be possible to negotiate for $50,000 – but not to fulfill the real interest. On the other hand, it may be possible that both parties share the interest of financial independence and recognition.

In the second example, the only way to satisfy the position is to have the kids on New Year’s. However, if the parents focus on the interests, a much richer solution may see the kids getting to have more experiences with the grandparents and experience more cultural traditions.

Interest-based negotiation allows people to gain a better understanding of what’s important. This helps them to create agreements that reflect those interests. These agreements often last longer and are followed because they meet the deeper needs of the parties than positional agreements. Collaborative negotiations use an interest-based approach.

Tips for interest-based negotiations

  • Think about each topic and figure out, what is important to you about this and why? And put yourself in the other person’s shoes and imagine what is important to them.
  • You probably have an ideal outcome for each topic in mind. However, remember that your ideal outcome may not be what ends up being agreed upon. Keep an open mind about what the final agreement may look like. Think of a range of possible outcomes.
  • Remember that in negotiation, it takes two to tango. You need the cooperation of the other person to make this work and they need your cooperation.


  1. Collaborative Language

It’s important to talk the talk. When you’re collaborating you’ll want to use the language of collaboration to keep you on track and avoid misunderstandings.

The following questions/phrases are examples of collaborative style language that helps

promote good communication.

  • What if we…?
  • What is important to you about…?
  • What’s your point of view on ….?
  • Let’s look at how we both…?
  • How do you feel about …?
  • I’d like to focus on..?
  • My concern is…
  • Correct me if I’m wrong…
  • What was your intention…?
  • How would you…if I…?
  • Could you tell me more about…?
  • I’ll consider that and get back to you.
  • Let me see if I understand you...
  • Would this be acceptable…?
  • What I value most is…
  • Have you given any thought to…?
  • How would it work if…?
  • My hope/goal is…
  • In your experience...
  • How do you see it?
  • Let’s consider…
  • Does it seem fair/make sense…

For more tips on collaborative language review the chart below.

How to Speak Collaboratively Chart





Statements that explain the nature of the conflict.

The only part of this arrangement that poses a problem for me is the Friday schedule.

Accepting Responsibility

Statements where responsibility is taken by you or both of you. Use “I” or “we” never “you”.

I was too quick in thinking it wasn’t worth the effort.


Observational statements that have no judgement passed.

I noticed the shed needed repairing after that storm.


Observational statements about things the other person couldn’t have witnessed, such as feelings, intentions and motivations.

I was upset about what happened and I felt unheard. 

Getting Feedback

Getting information about the other person’s perspective.

What impact did… have on you?


Statements that convey your understanding or acceptance of the other party.

I understand you felt anxious when the plans got changed.


Statements about shared needs or goals.

We both agree that Jonny’s best interest is our priority.

Initiating Problem Solving

Statements that start the search for a solution.

I believe we can work towards a solution that will get us to win-win.


Now it’s your turn to start thinking about how you can come to a win-win solution by filling in the Negotiation Worksheet