Compromise Isn’t a Bad Word

“Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.”
          ~Walter Lippmann, American Journalist

To say that we have a great divide in this country is an understatement.  If I don’t agree with you then I am an “idiot” or “stupid.”  (Words thrown out on social media from both parties.)  In politics, compromise has become a bad word.  Civil discussion is unpopular and loses out to vitriol, name-calling, and agenda pushing.  (Bear with me, I promise this is not going to be a political post.)

Despite what we’re witnessing in the political environment, compromise is essential to getting things done.  It’s not giving in or selling out but identifying an approach that helps to find an expedient, mutually acceptable solution.  Here are five quick tips to help you get to compromise:

  1. Listen first.  Instead of trying to prove the other party wrong, try to really understand the issues and challenges from all perspectives.  In Stephen Covey’s bestseller, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, habit number five is: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This is a useful approach when resolving conflict.  Listening helps to diffuse emotion and allows us to evaluate the situation.  When we truly listen, we often find that we actually have some common ground (which is point number two).
  2. Identify common ground. Understand differences but also seek to identify commonalities.  What are the points of agreement?  How can these be used to advance the discussion?
  3. Identify core needs (yours and those of the other party).  Identify what outcomes you really want/need.  What’s important?  What things are non-negotiable and why?  Just as important, seek to identify and understand the core needs of the other party.  Understanding the other side of a situation is key to resolving conflict in a mutually beneficial way.  Reach beyond your own perspective and consider the same issue from the other person’s point of view.
  4. Adapt a problem-solving mindset.  What’s the end goal?  How can a solution be crafted that helps the organization/team/individuals move forward?  Complex issues require critical thinking and there is often no one answer to resolving the issues at hand.  Confront and challenge issues, not people.
  5. Assess values and beliefs. Be clear about your own values and beliefs.  What principles guide you?  Would compromise challenge your belief systems?  While compromise is an important leadership skill, it shouldn’t come at the expense of values and doing what is right.

Master the art of compromise.  While it isn’t always appropriate, the approach can help two parties find a quick middle ground.

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