This is the fourth in a series about managing conflict, specifically Compromising. The introduction to this series begins here.
Compromising is the fourth mode of conflict, when a person chooses to be both moderately assertive and cooperative (they somewhat satisfy their own and the other person’s concerns). As it lies midway between both opposing diagonals, the goal of this mode is typically to find the middle ground, but not to appear too indecisive.
This mode is a common choice for a variety of reasons as many types of conflict are not …
- Urgent, vital nor important: it just needs to be dealt with and move on.
- Either/or. Both sides gave up something, and that public acknowledgment was important to the relationship.
- Worth significant time; sometimes it’s OK to find a solution that’s good enough.
- Complex: the most reasonable answer is fairly obvious or practical.
- One-off events; it requires several conversations and thus several mini-decisions/trade-offs are made along the way.
- A middle-ground solution is the only option, when other modes have failed.
The issue is that – as the name suggests – one or both parties have “compromised” something to gain partial satisfaction. Or, both parties chose to compromise quickly, only to realise shortly after that more thought, time or resources would have been preferable. Also, 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.
If Compromising is the Appropriate Option …
Here are some questions to create options which might minimise the negative effects of this mode.
What is your BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) as well as your ‘bottom line’?
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. At the same time, know precisely what elements of the potential solution are not up for negotation, as well as how flexible you are to everything else.
How can you compromise, but not look indecision or 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 brainstorm all of your concessions in advance. Again, the more you think about the potential options in advance, the more comfortable you’ll be in the conflict discussion.
What standards will either party use to determine if one or all elements of the negotiation are true?
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.
When have you compromised in negotiation or conflict, and what happened? Please share your thoughts and stories in the Comments below.