This is the fourth in a series about managing conflict. The introduction to this series begins here.
Compromising is the fourth mode of conflict, when a person chooses to be moderately assertive (they somewhat satisfy their own concerns) and to be moderately cooperative (they somewhat satisfy the other person’s concerns). Because the outcome of this mode is typically an acceptable solution (but still just partially addresses key issues), it’s still seen as a win-lose situation.
One or both of you have “compromised” something to gain partial satisfaction. In many cases, this might be an ideal situation.
- You had a limited amount of time, so Compromising was speedy. (Notice how people are more willing to compromise at the end of the meeting, rather than at the beginning.)
- To be fair, both sides gave up a little – and that public acknowledgment was important to the relationship.
- Compromising was the most practical solution.
- The issue – and its conflict – is complex, and Compromising is a good temporary solution.
- A compromised solution is the only option, when Collaboration and Competing have failed.
Many people in Conflict workshops tend to believe that Compromising is better than Collaborating, and in some ways it is – but only when you have not given up or sacrificed the vital issues important to you. Or, that time has become essential and a half-way solution (real or temporary) is better than no solution at all. In other words, it should only be a fall-back position from either Collaborating or Competing.
If Compromising is the Appropriate Option …
… here are some questions to inspire your creativity when you create options which might minimise the negative effects of this mode.
Know your BATNA (“Best alternative to a negotiated agreement”), and brainstorm all of the possible solutions that you may have to deal with IF a compromise cannot be reached.
It’s a mandatory element of negotiation, but it can be a helpful consideration even for minor conflicts. Think about what you will do if the conflict cannot be reached, not at all. What would you do then? Brainstorm all of the alternatives in advance of dealing with the conflict face-to-face. The more comfort you have with your BATNA means you often will be less willing to compromise – or have a better understanding of exactly what concessions you’ll give.
Brainstorm how you can compromise, but not look weak.
It’s a common belief that the moment you give up something, you think the other party will hold out for more, or you’ll worry that you’ve given too much, or worse of all, it’s a personal reflection on you. You will look weak. The best solution is to be creative in advance: brainstorm all of the concessions, and the brainstorm what you think may happen if each individually is offered. Again, the more you think about the potential options in advance, the more comfortable you’ll be in the conflict discussion.
Brainstorm how you can apply a principle compromise, based on standards.
To compromise effectively, both parties need to have a common and mutually agreed-to set of criteria which have been used so that an aura of fairness settles on the compromise. As before, brainstorm in advance all of the possible criteria that might be used for all areas of your BATNA as well as all concessions.
Next up: the final mode – Collaboration – which requires the most creative application.
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