The Science of Compromise

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I used to watch my father negotiate. He was a master at getting his way. After the deal was done, he would remind me, “Son, never offer anything you wouldn’t be glad to accept yourself,” I thought that was a pretty good strategy. It would certainly make you think before you tried to take advantage of someone.

When both people want it their way, and their ways are different, something has to give. Compromise is a good way to think of it because it involves both give and take. It’s a form of this for that, or a form of settling.

The first key to compromise is knowing where you’re willing to settle. And second is getting to the middle ground of the compromise process by asking questions of the other person – rather than begging, pleading, or trying too hard to persuade.

Questioning also leads to understanding. “Mr. Jones, if we did it my way, what would happen? How would this negatively affect you?” Once you understand how the other person may be negatively affected, then you can understand how to compromise, or, better stated, what you’re willing to give up in exchange for their partial happiness.

Where do you draw the line at compromise? And how far are you willing to draw that line to get your way?

Compromise usually means no one gets everything they wanted. The key to making a good compromise is fairness. Are you okay with the outcome? Is the other person okay with the outcome?

While compromise is a science, it’s one without a formula. The elements that must be present have already been discussed. Know what you’re willing to give up, and ask questions to find out the other person’s needs, feelings, and passions.

And, like any other form of persuasion or getting your way, you have to look at the long-term outcome and measure its value or consequence against what you’re trying to achieve. That will not only help you in compromise, it will also help you in life.

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