Compromising often leaves both sides wanting

Compromising is a lose/lose proposition, because it often leaves both sides wanting.

A photo from eyesogreen on flickr.comfriend and I planned to take advantage of the lovely autumn day.  We scheduled a meet at an outdoor café.  When my friend arrived, I had already situated myself at a table in a sunny part of the patio.

“Hey, there.   I’ve forgotten my sun glasses.  Do you mind if we move to that shady table over there?  Then I won’t have to squint at you all afternoon.”

“Oh – well, I actually tried that table earlier and it was a little too chilly for me.  The sun really warms up the air.  But I don’t want you to have to squint.”

“Well – then let’s just sit in the car and talk.”

“mmm – Let’s try one thing first.  Let’s move that table to the right.  Then half will be in the sun for me, and half will be in the shade for you.”

He agreed and we moved the table to be half sunny and half shaded.

While this is a simple story, it does illustrate a good point – if you take the time to actually understand both sides of the issue, majority of the time there’s a solution that makes everyone happy.   Although “compromising” is a common negotiation tactic, often times it leaves both sides wanting.

I much prefer Comprehending over Compromising.

In the above story, if my friend and I had settled for the “sitting in the car” solution – we would have both forfeited our common goal of enjoying the beautiful weather.  Spending that little extra time understanding our individual situations allowed us to create a solution that was a Win/Win.  A Win/Win solution is not a compromise but the collaboration of wants.

But – don’t you need to compromise in most relationships?

This is only true if you accept that premise.  A compromise is actually a short-cut.  Take for instance the thought that one spouse wants to live on the ocean and the other wants to live in the city.  It’s difficult to imagine how both people could be happy.  It seems that one or both might have to compromise.

Well – first step is to understand why the other wants what they want.  For example, one spouse wants to live on the ocean because:

  1. He enjoys the fresh air.
  2. He enjoys the relaxing sounds off the water at night.
  3. He enjoys swimming and other water activities.
  4. He wants an easy yard (or no yard) to maintain.

Once explained, his wife realizes that she also enjoys all of the above.

She wants to live in the city because:

  1. She likes to stay active in other non-water hobbies that are easily accessible in the city
  2. She likes going to the gym, movies and shopping
  3. She likes meeting her friends at her favorite lunch spots
  4. She is responsible for much of the house chores, and doesn’t want to drive a long distance to accomplish her tasks.

He realizes that he wants those things as well.

None of their desires were actually tied to the ocean or the city.   Those were just assumptions that they each made.  They actually want the same things.  Taking the time to focus on the essence of their wants (the “why” they wanted it) helps clarify what they really wanted.  After clarifying what they really wanted, they were able to find a house on a lake within the city limits (and near an easily accessible highway).  This home covered all their goals without compromising what each of them truly wanted.

Treating people the way I want to be treated.

Another phrase I hear often and somewhat disagree with is:  The key to my success is treating people the way I want to be treated.

I much prefer:  To be truly successful I want enjoy treating people they way THEY want to be treated.

I realize that at first glance, this statement is a head scratcher.  But there are two critical points in the above statement.

The first is “treating people they way they want to be treated” – not necessarily how I would like to be treated.  Not everyone is like me (my friends would say, “thank goodness!”).  So, to treat everyone as if they were me is absurd.

from e 3000Another example (and this is an exaggerated example meant only for illustrative purposes):  Sally Saint is a “giver”.  She loves to give, compliment, help others, dote to the extreme, serve, mother, etc.  She is, however, very uncomfortable in the receiving mode.  She doesn’t like to accept any help.  She doesn’t like to be served or receive gifts.  She doesn’t want any acknowledgements or recognition of any type.  So, if she truly treated people they way she wanted to be treated, she would not help, dote, compliment or try to please anyone.   She would also be miserable, because she is going against her natural instincts.  So, her perfect matches are people that are good receivers, moochers, users, beggars and takers who feel entitled (exaggerating for illustrative purposes).  These two types of people (the giver and the taker) complement and are harmony with each other.  These puzzle pieces fit together.

The second point is that “I want to enjoy” treating people the way they want to be treated (i.e. do these things in joy).  For me to be happy, the “way they want to be treated” needs to fit my personality.    If those things are outside my comfort zone, or I feel that I am constantly compromising and negotiating to keep the other person happy then I won’t be a happy camper.  I will eventually resent the person and will dislike the person I have become.   If I’m doing these things in joy because I love doing these things, because that is already who I am – then it’s very easy, natural and instinctual for me.  I am not compromising.  I’m getting exactly what I need out of the relationship and they are too.  In a relationship like this, I often feel that I’m getting the better end of the deal, and the other person feels they are getting the best end.  It’s a perfect combination.  For this collaboration to balance our needs rarely are the same thing; instead they are complementary and harmonious.

You’re talking about a soul mate.  Not every relationship is like that.

All relationships (whether a professional, personal, or a passing relationship) can fit this example.  It’s very evident in marketing.  A “seller” doesn’t seek other “sellers”.   A “seller” looks for a “buyer”.  A golf instructor isn’t looking for someone wanting to learn to swim.  You don’t want to make “everyone happy”.   You want to attract and deal with people (whether in your professional or personal life) that are already “in tuned” and “up to speed” with what you want to offer.  Those are the collaborations that are the most fun and successful.


So – think about Comprehension over Compromising; choose Finding the fit over Forcing a fit.  Preferring these things takes a little more time, but the results are worth it.


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