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The Win-Win Waltz: A Strategy for Conflict Resolution and Shared Problem-Solving

Couples often seek information on how to fix a relationship, how to communicate with your spouse, how to handle marriage problems, and how to save a marriage.  They are wise to seek out this kind of information, especially about skills for communication in marriage.

That’s because most marriages end because of insufficient partnership communication skills–skills that can be learned.

Communication skills include keeping your emotional cool, talking tactfully, listening to genuinely understand your partner’s concerns, and sprinkling your dialogue with a steady flow of appreciation, agreement, humor and other positive vibes.

These communication skill sets will almost get you to a vastly improved relationship.  One more skill though is essential: shared problem-solving, also often called conflict resolution.

All couples have differences.  Skills for finding win-win solutions to your differences are a vital addition to keeping couples in love-mode.

The good news is that if you follow the three steps and guideline details below, success may be surprisingly easy, provided you consistenly utilize all the while the communication skills listed above.

Begin by recognizing each time you feel a tug of war begin.  If each of you is pulling for your preferred solution to a problem, switch immediately from arguing in favor or against particular plans of action to exploring your underlying concerns.

Once the two of you have succeeded in generating a full list of all of your underlying concerns, with the concerns of both of you all listed on one list, generating win-win solutions can become creative and fun.

No need to argue!  Just use the Worksheet below to guide you to a resolution that will please you both.  In addition, if you think you might need more help to upgrade your collaborative communication and conflict resolution skills, check out

The Win-Win Waltz Worksheet

by Susan Heitler, Ph.D., founder


A’s Initial solution proposal:________________________________________________________________________________________________

B’s Initial solution proposal: _________________________________________________________________________________


  • _______________________________________________________
  • _______________________________________________________
  • _______________________________________________________
  • _______________________________________________________
  • _______________________________________________________
  • _______________________________________________________

Note: Be sure to list all the concerns of both participants on one list, indicating that any concern of one of you immediately becomes a shared concern of both of you.

STEP 3: CREATE a WIN-WIN SOLUTION, responsive to all the concerns

  • Start by identifying the most strongly felt concerns, building the plan initially around the most strongly felt concerns.
  • Add enhancements until all the concerns are responded to.
  • Suggest only what you yourself might be willing to do.
  • Express appreciation of what the other offers
  • Add additional concerns that each proposed solution may raise, and create solution options responsive to these concerns as well.
  • Aim to build a solution set, a comprehensive solution

Potential win-win ideas:_________________________________________________________________________

Circle back one more time: have all the concerns been responded to in the plan of action?  Add further details to the plan as needed.

In sum, WIN-WIN means that the plan of action has elements responsive to all of the concerns of both of you. While neither of you may have “gotten your way” with regard to you initial solution ideas, both of you will have succeeded in getting what you wanted!

Copyright@ Susan Heitler. Ph.D.  For more information see or

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