‘No compromise’ is a mantra that is often banded about, especially in highly ideological or religious circles. In these contexts, there is often a feeling of being under cultural pressure to behave in ways contrary to strongly held ideas and beliefs.
The reality is that compromise is integral to being in relationship with other people. Whether you are a family deciding where to go on holiday, a neighbourhood creating a community plan, or a business team deciding it’s go to market strategy – compromise is essential.
There is a difference between a compromise of values and a compromise of preference. I would suggest that compromising values is something to be avoided, however, compromising personal preferences is something that should be a part of everyday life and relationships.
If you want to live totally without compromise, you had better live alone. If you want to create neighbourhood your way, then you had better be a hermit. If you think you have the only business solution, you had better be a sole trader. Only the solitary life requires no compromise whatsoever.
Every marriage has to work out its way of disagreeing well. I am a strong personality and so without thinking I assert what I want about how our family does things. It’s a continual challenge for me to hold back and let other family members voice their preferences and make decisions their way.
Disagreeing well means compromising. It means listening, hearing and understanding another’s opinion. It means continually making space for other people’s voices, preferences and contribution. This can only happen if our voice, our preference and our contribution is not dominant. If we insist on our voice being the loudest, insist on having things our way and insist on our contribution always being centre stage, we will continue to disagree badly with others.
All relationships experience disagreement. The challenge and opportunity is how we handle this disagreement. If being right is more important than having good relationships, then we could find ourselves with a string of broken relationships trailing behind us. At the heart of good relationships is the ability to say “yes” to compromise.