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The Need to Win (and not lose)

 

Explanations > Needs > Win (and not lose)

The zero sum assumption | The impact of losing | So what?

 

We have a deep need to win at whatever we do, and perhaps an even stronger need to avoid losing (at least appearing to lose).

The zero sum assumption

We are naturally programmed as a competitive species who will fight for our side against all competitors. In doing so, we are assuming a win-lose scenario. If we win, the other person loses, and vice versa. The natural strategy that flows from this is to fight tooth and nail to win.

There is another option: that it is not zero sum. When one person gains, the other does not necessarily have to lose. If you can create a win-win situation, then everyone can win.

The impact of losing

When we lose, this has a number of negative impacts on us:

  • It is evidence that we are not winners, which may be a significant self-image.
  • It shows that our prediction process is not good, making all other predictions possibly failures.
  • Other people will see us as losers and give us less esteem or otherwise take advantage.

In Argyris' Governing Values, the Model 1 approach indicates how people are driven to win, and especially to not lose. This is also reflected in Prospect Theory, which indicates how the prospect of loss can be more powerful a motivator than the prospect of gain, even though both drive the person towards winning.

So what?

Help the other person win. If they are competitive, frame it as the other person's competitor losing (if necessary, find them someone or something to compete against). If they are friendly, frame it as a win-win situation.

See also

Argyris' Governing Values, The Competition Principle

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