COMPROMISE – A BUILDING BLOCK
Sympathy, empathy or compassion; any of these can be useful tools when working on compromise. The definition of compromise, as stated in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
1a. Settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions.
1b. Something intermediate between or blending qualities of two different things.
2. A concession to something derogatory or prejudicial, as in: “He has compromised his principles by holding back pertinent information to protect his friend.”
For the purposes of this conversation about compromise and how to promote it, definitions 1a and 1b are the most applicable. Ideally, productive compromise should be obtained without having to compromise one’s principles.
If you care about any people at all outside your immediate circle; if you care about the man next door whose wife died in a car accident and is now trying to raise two teen-aged sons alone; if you care about the elderly couple down the street who have to walk 3 blocks to even reach a bus stop; if you care about your co-worker who was just diagnosed with cancer; if you care about the strangers you see on the 6:00 o’clock news that have lost their jobs today because the business they worked for has closed, or if you care about WHY the business had to close its doors… if you notice and care about these people and their situations, you will probably have some degree of sympathy, and even more importantly, empathy. Sympathetic, and particularly empathetic people are generally capable of compassion. Compassion is the ability to care about, feel or share another’s problems to the point of motivation, wherein you want to help them. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201505/empathy-vs-sympathy
In order to successfully work out a compromise, it’s important to have some compassion for the needs or desires of the other party, even if you don’t agree with their point of view or method of trying to obtain their goals. We all do this on a regular basis within our own circle of family and friends. We compromise when we set up a household budget. We learn to prioritize needs over wants, but we try to include wants whenever we can. We negotiate compromises with our children over privileges. “Yes, you can borrow the car Saturday, if you make sure the lawn is mowed before you go, and bring the car back with a full tank of gas.” We work out compromises on our jobs. “I need to take Wednesday off. Would it be okay if I take some material home on Monday and Tuesday evening to finish the project you need completed by Thursday?”
I asked someone to describe a simple compromise that might occur at any time, and hardly be realized as a compromise. It was late and he didn’t want to take the time to mull it over, so I suggested he get back to me the next day. He agreed, then said, “You wanted an answer about compromise right now. I didn’t want to take the time to give you one. We agreed to discuss it further tomorrow. That’s a compromise!”
See how easy it is! Compromise does not necessarily mean losing. In fact, it often leads to solutions that benefit both parties in ways they hadn’t foreseen. Take the example of compromising with your boss by taking work home in exchange for getting a needed day off. Your boss sees that you can achieve the same success without being present in the office every day. This could lead to more savings and efficiency in production for the company (less absenteeism) while allowing you and others the ability to work a four-day week.
We’ve also seen how the inability to compromise can create many problems, causing higher expenses and even bringing about hardships to our everyday lives. A perfect example of that is the gridlock we see in our government. When the Senate and/or the House of Representatives refuse to work on compromise, we who elected them feel cheated, and rightfully so. The economy stagnates, important projects don’t get funded – roads, bridges, electric grids, public waterworks, public health and education and much more – deteriorate and fall by the wayside. Even global respect for our country is diminished.
One of the best examples of how compromise can and should work is something called The Great Compromise which took place during the Constitutional Convention in 1787. As our new government was being formed, debate broke out about how our individual states should be represented in the legislative branch. Originally, the plan was to have a single legislative chamber. Some argued that it should be an equal number of representatives for each state. Others thought that was unfair, because some states were larger and had more population and should have more representation. The smaller states worried that the larger states could easily take advantage with extra representation, keeping the needs and interests of the smaller states at bay. A few states began talking about leaving the newly formed union. Finally, a Connecticut delegate named Roger Sherman suggested a completely different option. How about forming two chambers of the legislature? One would have an equal number of representatives for each state, (the Senate at 2 per state) and the other would be comprised of a representative for every 30,000 residents, (the House of Representatives, where population determines the number of representatives, and is adjusted by census numbers every 10 years.) Thus the structure of our legislative government was laid out. http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/uscongress/a/greatcomp.htm
The key to compromise (and sometimes the hardest part) is listening to the other side, especially when you completely disagree with them and think you cannot abide their position. This is where empathy and compassion come in.
- First, try to recognize why the other party has an argument. Hear the words they say and break them down until you can visualize the situation from their viewpoint. You still may not agree, but you might start to understand what is driving their angst.
- Try making a list of the pluses and minuses of the other side, and the same list for your position, then compare. Instead of pushing and repeating the same arguments over and over, reword your stance. Then try rewording the other side’s stance. Maybe you will find that some of the same words apply to you both. Rework your plus/minus lists with the new words.
- Avoid using negative phrases. Try “if” questions instead; IF we agree that we should refinance, how would it affect our credit?
- Never resort to insulting or rude statements and comparisons. That undermines the chances of any compromise. It puts the other party on the defensive and you will usually lose ground as they fight back. Name-calling and stereo-typing, while second nature to some, are counterproductive forces. Instead, walk away for a few minutes, if you must, but with a promise to return. When you come back, offer new suggestions or ask the other party to restate their position, and ask if they have come up with any new insights. If all else fails, bring in an arbiter – a third, unbiased party.
- Finally, look at compromise as a series of steps. You may not get everything you want, but if you get some of it, you’re ahead of where you started. Each step can lead to another compromise. If you, in turn, give something, the recipient is more likely to work with you another time, and in a less combative manner.