Compromise – A Matter of Perspective

Newsletter for effective negotiation skills

For some of us, compromise is a less than savoury word that implies a forfeiting of values and core beliefs… a word that brings to mind appeasing and even grovelling behaviours. For others, it means a willingness to see things from another perspective, and brings to mind recollections of successful negotiations, conflict de-escalations, and the adroit way we handle tricky or tense situations.

So, let’s say that both sides are right and that compromising is either helpful or destructive depending on the situation… that if we betray ourselves by going against our instincts or a core belief, or by agreeing to things in order to please others, then compromise is indeed a dirty little word.

Conversely, it also seems true that if we don’t insist on everything being our way, while simultaneously not betraying ourselves, we can consider compromise to be a very, very good thing. This is, perhaps, why the word ‘compromise’ is often considered a synonym for ‘agreement’, ‘settlement’, or ‘an understanding’. It often forms a key part of many successful meeting of minds.

We’ve compiled the following questions as a way for you to explore your ideas about compromise, and whether, after you’ve considered them, you think those views serve you or harm you.

  1. Are you likely to be the first or the last person in a negotiation to put forward a compromise position?
    • If you’re the first person, is it because you see the other person as having more power?
    • If you’re the last person, do you think that’s because you see compromising as a weakness? Or because your superiors are putting pressure on you to not give an inch?
  2. Are you the first or last person in a conflict to see things from the other person’s point of view?
    • If you’re the first person, is it because you want to avoid escalation?
    • If you’re the last, is it because you want to be seen as ‘the right one’?
  3. In what ways do you continually compromise or betray yourself? i.e.:
    • You don’t live up to your potential?
    • You don’t let yourself behave in a way that’s congruent with your inner self?
    • You’d rather fit in than make waves?
    • You stay with the status quo because you’re afraid of change?
  4. What’s the biggest compromise you’ve ever made?
    • Was it in your best interests or someone else’s?
    • If you were faced with that situation again, what would you do?
  5. After answering the questions above, what would you say is your stance on compromise? Overall, do you think you compromise to:
    • engender healthy interactions
    • keep the peace?
    • please others?
    • avoid conflict?
  6. Does your stance on compromise serve or disserve you? In what ways?
  7. Who do you know who can compromise and still maintain their integrity? What do you admire about them? In what ways could you use them as a role model?

Now that you’ve considered the questions, what do you think?

  • Do you have a healthy relationship to compromise?
  • Are you willing to compromise on a ‘demand’ or a ‘request’, while staying true to your values?

Give yourself an experiment or a challenge to put your insights into practice. The learning is worth the effort.


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