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I have a tongue-in-cheek saying for my own role in a public service sector, and many readers will sympathise a little (in private) with it. It goes

“If it wasn’t for the public this would be a great job.”

They call us expecting us to deal with their problem as if it is the only problem we have to address. They see the TV and how things are sorted in half an hour (minus ad breaks) and expect us to do the same. They also seem to think that we don’t have time off at weekends and after hours, like they do.

But in absolute fairness, if it wasn’t for ‘people’ life would be a little humdrum. When you think about it –

“Everything we do, we do for someone, because of someone, or with someone.”

Consider your own circumstances. In truth, is there anything you do that does not come under one of those headings. Think broadly, because things you think you do on your own usually require either direct or indirect involvement of someone else – perhaps, for example, the inventor of the equipment you are using. (I lose count of people who hate ‘personal development’ books because they are ‘so American’: I ask them to give up their computers because they are pretty much American, too. Microsoft and Apple pretty much run the world in computer terms, after all.)

So, realising that all you do is because of, for or with the help of someone, perhaps your attitude towards the interference of ‘people’ in your life should mellow, just a teeny bit.

Then you can start to Think Win-Win with people, as per Habit 4 of the 7 Habits. That’s a whole new challenge! On courses I have attended, when asked what Habit 4 is, participants often shout back ‘Win-Win!’ and have to be gently corrected because the emphasis is as much on the Think as it is on the Win-Win. Habit 4 is the mindset of the Public Victory; Habit 5 (seek first to understand, then to be understood) is your part in the Technique, and Habit 6 (Synergise) is the combined execution that brings the desired result.

Just entering into a conversation, negotiation or situation with the mindset of mutual satisfaction with an end result makes a massive difference to the interaction between people – even the ones who you don’t want to interact with. So here’s a question Dr Covey used when he sensed the beginning of a dispute (for example with someone who opens with ‘the policy is….’).

“What is the nature of your concern?”

This requires an answer that comes from behind the initial objection to you getting the result you need. It asks, “If this policy is preventing us from agreeing, what is behind the policy – what caused that policy to come about?” All too often, the policy is designed as a safety blanket to prevent a problem that will not necessarily apply in your own situation, and is therefore changeable ‘just this once’ because a sense of trust and understanding – resulting from your own approach in Think Win-Win – allows it.

People – treated with respect and understanding they can be soooooo much nicer…….