Competition vs. Cooperation, does it Have to be One or the Other?

Finding the Balance of These Two Things is Like Walking a Tightrope

On the surface, competition and cooperation seem to be opposites.  I think they are two different things pulling in opposite directions providing the tension needed to keep the bridge of negotiation held up and safe to cross.

Most people see negotiation as a conflict.  As either a win or lose proposition.  This is a competitive perspective.  Depending on the people involved and the circumstances…it can be a pretty intense battle.

Some people love the battle.

Other people want to avoid conflict at all costs.  They are willing to be used as a doormat, rather than to stand up and fight for what they believe.  These people will compromise and avoid uncomfortable situations.  It’s just easier.

Some people will avoid the battle any way they can.

The reality is that negotiation is a part of your everyday life…whether you like it or not.  I’m currently going through another Business Made Simple University course, Negotiation Made Simple. This course teaches that negotiation doesn’t have to be like haggling with a used car salesman. It can actually be a win/win when done right.

By nature, I’m not competitive.  This lends itself to my being a doormat.  As I have matured and through my wife’s encouragement (by nature she’s very competitive), I’m more willing to stand up for what I believe in.

The whole competition/cooperation thing was made abundantly clear to me a few days ago while watching a NASCAR race.

NASCAR is different than other sports. In other sports competition is one on one or two teams competing against each other.

In NASCAR there is a combination of these two.  While there are thirty or forty individual cars on the track racing for the win, there are also multi-car teams.  This makes for an interesting dynamic when two drivers on a multi-car team are battling for the win.

In the race I referred to earlier this was the situation.  In this scenario on a late race restart there was an opportunity for one driver to let another driver win which allowed the winning driver to make it into the championship playoffs.

These types of decisions can come from a variety of places.  Maybe this is what the team owner had mandated.  Maybe it was the driver’s personality.  Ultimately, in NASCAR these types of decisions are made in a split second.

This is why it’s critical to know ourselves and our priorities before we enter into the negotiation.

The competition/cooperation of construction projects is like racing.  On one hand there is a construction company trying to make a profit.  On the other, the customer trying to get a project done as inexpensively as possible.  You throw into the mix subcontractors and suppliers.  They are trying to balance multiple projects and also trying to be profitable.

These construction negotiations can be wins for everybody if handled properly.

Thankfully we don’t normally have to make the decisions in a split second like racecar drivers.

Ultimately, once we understand that competition and cooperation work together to provide the best bridge between contractor and customer…everybody wins.

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