Compromise: Do You Know How to Give and Take?

Every time someone makes a decision, it is a combination of a variety of compromises - cost, impact, needs, desires, and everything else. This matters just as much in the political arena as it does at home, with compromises needed in many cases to get major changes passed into law. At home, you make compromises so that you can balance the things that you want with the things that your housemates, partner, or children want. At work, you may compromise between your work-life balance and the needs of your employer. But what is the secret to the perfect compromise? How do you decide?


The first step to a good compromise is always communication. However, instead of communication about your wants and desires, listen to what others are saying. Listen, also, to what they're not saying--are they ignoring any issues that you might need to address? Politeness and calmness go a long way toward creating a good compromise everyone is happy with, as a confrontational approach often makes others annoyed and less willing to compromise.

Red Lines

Everyone has some red lines that they're not willing to compromise on, and you need to make sure that your red lines are reasonable. While you can't do anything about the other person's red lines, you can choose what you are willing to bend on. Again, communication is key, as you must be willing to listen to what the other person's red lines are and understand how you can work around them or work with them. In some cases, it's helpful to make a list of potential red lines. Study the list, and make sure that what you're asking is reasonable and that what the other party is asking is reasonable.

Acknowledge the other party's point of view

Naturally, it's vital to make sure that the other party understands that you're taking their point of view into account. Address concerns, and show them where you're willing to compromise. In some cases, you may wish to present "actual use" scenarios - examples of when you would act in the way that you have agreed to and how you would change.

In general, listen. The ability to compromise is primarily determined by each party's willingness to listen to each other and to adjust their actions to suit the other party--so long as it's mutual. In some cases, you may not be able to compromise as certain demands will not be possible; but in many cases, you will.

My challenge for you this week:

Test your ability to compromise.

  1. Make a list of the things you want in your personal or professional life that would require the support or action of another person.

  2. For each item on your list, specify the type of support or action needed.

  3. Write down how you plan to communicate your want to the appropriate person.

  4. What are you willing to provide each person in exchange for their support or action?

  5. In your conversation, determine whether there is a gap between what you are willing to give and what the other person wants.

  6. Close the gap by communicating your willingness to be flexible, and give more!

When you follow these six steps and begin to master the art of compromise, you will find that you will be able to accomplish much more than if you neglect to practice a give and take relationship with those whose help you need.

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