Compromise is one of the fundamentals of civilized society. It is also essential in every type of organization from the United Nations to the family. In fact, compromise is necessary whenever there are two human beings who are attempting to accomplish anything together, especially a married couple.
It is unreasonable, and rather selfish, to think that we can always have things our way. In fact, we should expect to make compromises throughout our lives. The following are essential guidelines that will allow us to make proper compromises without surrendering what is precious to us.
1. Always compromise, unless it is a compromise of our values
One of the most difficult issues in compromise is determining when we are about to cross the line of violating our core values. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender.”
In order avoid compromising our fundamental values, we must determine what our values are and be able to clearly define how those values apply to everyday life. We must also have the strength to not surrender when those values are challenged.
2. Determine that the compromise will be beneficial to all concerned
John F. Kennedy reminded us of the key process to keep government working in behalf of the country. “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
This same concept must apply in our businesses, our families and in our dealings with other nations. We must abandon our selfishness and look for the “right answer.”
3. Readily compromise if the outcome isn’t all that important
Examples from family life would be: what type of ice cream we buy, which family-friendly TV show to watch, how our children spend the discretionary money they have earned, if our daughters want to wear glitter on their face, etc.
We control our kids physically when they are young and financially when they are older. If we want our kids to grow up to be responsible adults, we need to give them opportunity to make their own decisions. This will be a compromise. Be assured that they will make a lot of bad choices, but we need to allow them to choose and fail, as long as the consequences are not serious.
4. Realize that compromise typically produces two parties that are equally dissatisfied with the outcome.
Compromise is a key component in a successful marriage. Anyone who thinks that their spouse should always do things their way is hallucinating, unless they purposely married a doormat.
When couples compromise, at least they will know that they respect each other. We can take comfort in the fact that a compromise is a small step forward in the direction of having things the way we want. This concept equally applies to nations negotiating trade agreements.
5. Successful compromise is only possible when both parties have integrity
A compromise struck with another party that does not have integrity is just the beginning of a larger conflict. Lasting compromises only occur when each party knows that the other can be trusted.
Jim Turley, former chairman and CEO of Ernst & Young, said “Any great leader I have ever met has an unshakable bedrock of integrity. Everything else they do is built on that foundation.”
Finally, these words from Zig Ziglar are of utmost importance. “Be careful not to compromise what you want most for what you want now.” Marriages, nations, careers and lives have been destroyed from making this type of compromise.