Compromise…is it a dirty word?

In life, we can’t escape the need to compromise. It is part of successful living, indeed without a little compromising, life will certainly be one of conflict and general unhappiness, either for you or those around you! Usually both, I would venture to suggest.

The word compromise has a double meaning though. We say that our position in warfare has been compromised if there has been a breach of protocol. Or our reputation is compromised if we are caught in a misdemeanour and is often associated with ‘selling out’.

However, the main dictionary definition for compromise is an amicable way to reach an agreement between two parties. It is a mutual giving up of some ground to the other side.

Commonly, we do think of compromise as a dirty word, though, don’t we? Often, a lack of compromising leads to marriage break downs, business partnership downfalls, committee dissolutions, and even, when we fail to compromise some issues with our children, teenage rebellion and fractured families.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I do not uphold the view that we must compromise on fundamental principles, or that we must compromise on who we are or what we believe in. I certainly don’t believe in the philosophy of ‘anything for a peaceful life’ but I do value the art of successful and mutually beneficial negotiating and compromising.

Compromising is a skill. And like any skill, it needs to be practiced to be perfected.  We are all out to have our way, though, and often will strive to win at all costs, with compromising being seen as not having anything at all to do with winning and everything to do with giving in or giving up.

The price we pay for a lack of compromise is often high and almost always brings loss, to ourselves or others. Yet, when both parties seek to come together in the spirit of ‘compromise’, it is more likely to end in a peaceful resolution, than not.

In my experience, the key to successful compromise in conflict and life in general, is listening. When we truly listen to the other side of an argument or discussion, we will often find areas we can compromise in without giving in entirely to the opposing viewpoint. In fact, by listening, we may discover no compromise is necessary at all; that in fact, we are on the same side after all and what was needed was simply to be heard.

The other quality linked in with being able to compromise, is, I think, humility. It takes graciousness and a humble spirit to give a little in our position on a given topic or issue. Most of us, at our root core, do not find humility easy and often confuse it with having a low self-esteem (maybe that’s a topic for another time!). If we begin to exercise some humility, we may find the process of compromising comes a bit more naturally.

Compromising will be necessary at some time in our life, more often, maybe, than we recognise. How are you at compromising? Are you determined to be ‘right’ and for your way to be the only way? Or are you willing to give a little and receive much in return?

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