Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On Compromise

Yesterday I pointed out the need for compromise in a world of limited resources. But what exactly is compromise and when should we be willing to do it?

Before we go further, there is a negative attitude towards compromise. When our politicians do it they are called weak or are said to flip flop. When we do it we worry that we too will appear weak. So let’s start by looking at what compromise is not. It is not giving in; it is not surrendering what you want in favor of what someone else wants, and it is not giving up. Compromise is not weakness. It is instead the very stone used to build the foundation of society.

Compromise is a method of finding an agreeable solution between two groups with different ideas about how things can be. At the heart of compromise is finding out what is really important to each participant and how those things can be preserved for both sides in the final outcome.

To do this we need to understand what we are trying to achieve in a situation and be willing to listen to what others are trying to achieve. We must also accept that we may not get our ideal solution, but instead find a solution that gives everyone something of what they want.

Start by identifying the things that would be nice but are not necessary, the frills that could be sacrificed to save the dress so to speak. Once you know what those are, look at what you really want again and see what could be modified, what could be changed to deliver the same result in a different way. This gives you areas to compromise on without giving up everything.

We also have to know what we are unwilling to give up, the core of what is important to us in the compromise. What are the things that are so important that we cannot back down without losing a part of who we are?

With that in mind compromise should always be the first attempt we make to resolve conflict. As long as we can reach an agreement that protects those core outcomes we can find resolution.


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