A collaborative mindset isn’t the human default setting; ours is something more self-centered.  If I dig deep enough, I can find seeds of selfishness in my own heart. Without an outside influence, selfishness will begin to prosper. Thankfully the universe is not an empty place, there is a God whose essence is love. He is the source of all goodness and generosity, influencing all of mankind to be the same.

The result is a world filled with people who make the interests of others equal to their own. But it isn’t easy. It requires a committed resistance to the self-centered nature, a daily effort to reach out to others and collaborate.   

A collaborative mindset is the common thread that weaves through every system of communication and conflict resolution. It is what makes conflict potentially meaningful and productive.

Read on as I share 3 characteristics of a person with a collaborative mindset. When you put on this mindset, you are certain to enjoy more fulfilling relationships with less drama, accomplishing more along the way.

#1 A collaborative mindset understands that reality is complex, and no single person can account for all its parts.

Susan Scott put it well in her book Fierce Conversations when she said nobody owns the entire truth, we all own a piece of it.  This is especially helpful when you have conflict with another person.

There is nothing wrong and everything right with analyzing the situation to try and figure out what is going on; you couldn’t stop doing that if you tried. The problem comes when your analysis turns into assumptions that you think are true. Some people will describe themselves to me as, I’m very intuitive. Sometimes I want say stop being so intuitive, it’s hurting your relationships. No one can possibly know all that motivates and contributes to another person’s behavior.

When you collaborate to resolve conflict, you let the other person speak for themselves, you learn to draw them out with questions, you share your thoughts in an unassuming way, demonstrating a commitment to discovering the truth.

#2 A collaborative mindset is empathetic, seeking to understand the other person’s position.

Now that discovering the truth is your agenda, it is not enough to let the other person speak for themselves, it must be combined with a desire to understand their position. This does not mean you have to agree, it is the sincere attempt that makes the difference. In his book Never Split the Difference, Chris Voss describes it as being “experts in empathy.”

When people experience you listening carefully and without judgement, they start to listen to themselves more carefully, openly evaluating and clarifying their position. They become more open to your views, being less oppositional and defensive. Instead of a power struggle, you are collaborating to find out where it went wrong and what you can do to correct the situation.  

#3 A collaborative mindset understands that everyone benefits when we can resolve our differences.

There are always good reasons for finding a solution to our differences, even if it is just to reduce the amount of emotional baggage we are all carrying around. Very often these reasons can be found in what the authors of the book Crucial Conversations call our mutual purpose.

Mutual purpose often involves the higher calling we share with another individual. A divorced couple sharing custody of a young child still have the important job of providing a loving and caring existence for this little person. A supervisor and his direct report have the important purpose of keeping the promises their company makes to their customers.

Stating our mutual purpose builds a bridge where we can safely meet with another person to mend our differences. It helps us see that our relationship is worth preserving because of the value we provide.

A commitment to the truth, combined with a desire to understand the other person’s behavior, while focused on your mutual purpose is the essence of the collaborative mindset. It creates the space for solutions to appear where you thought none existed.