Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 5, Issue 3;   January 19, 2005: Obstacles to Compromise

Obstacles to Compromise

by

Compromise is the art of devising an approach acceptable to all parties. A talent for compromise is rare. What makes finding compromises so difficult?
Agreeing to a deal

Ellen looked at the clock. Three minutes to eleven — just barely enough time. She looked at Glen, then at Mort. "So, we have a deal?" she asked. Glen nodded. Mort sat quietly, looking down at some figures on his pad. Ellen knew he was on the edge. She prodded him. "Mort?"

Mort sighed and looked up at Glen. "We have the test bed until June 30?"

Glen nodded. "Yes," he said.

"And you have it April 1 to 15?" Mort asked.

Glen said yes again.

"OK," Mort said. "Deal."

Mort, Ellen, and Glen have just worked out a compromise. Even when the result is fairly simple, finding a compromise can be difficult. Here are some reasons why.

Emotions are involved
Finding design compromises — we call them tradeoffs — is easier because designs aren't people. A design can't feel hurt.
Trading off the needs and desires of people, though, triggers emotions. We must learn to propose and to make those trades with care and respect. And we must deal with the sometimes-emotional consequences.
The word "compromise" has baggage
Trading off needs
and desires tends
to trigger emotions.
Take emotions
into account.
We use the word compromise in negative ways. For instance, when we fall ill, we say that our health is compromised. This is one reason why we tend to see compromises as undesirable.
Learning to appreciate the elegance of a compromise makes it easier to find compromises when we need them.
We need to be "right"
Many of us need to be right, and too often, we feel more "right" when we prove others "wrong." In such a black-and-white world, compromise appears gray and unsatisfying.
But compromise isn't about being right or wrong. Rather, compromise is about satisfying everyone's needs and desires, and these are often non-rational.
We misunderstand compromise
Too often, we view compromise as "give and take." And sometimes it is, when we transfer resources or status to our partners in contention.
But compromise needn't involve such transfers — it's possible to compromise without any exchange at all. Often, to achieve new goals, we simply let go of goals we once had.
The compromise itself is new to us
We usually have a clear view of what we want, and what we don't want. When someone proposes a compromise, it often contains elements we haven't considered before, and we're unsure of the consequences.
Since we're uncertain of the value of the proposed compromise, we manage the perceived risk by devaluing the proposal, or by rejecting it outright. Instead, seek to understand the risks, and ask for what you need to manage those risks.

These are some of the troubles we encounter when we try to find compromises. Just as there are troubles, there are also workable techniques for finding compromises. I just didn't have space to cover both in one week. So I compromised: we'll explore techniques for finding compromises in a future issue. Go to top Top  Next issue: Virtual Communications: I  Next Issue

Rick BrennerThe article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenzBPTOTBdAFiuoBYTner@ChacSoeikaetmvMxsqdVoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

Don't start meetings on the hourMastering Meeting Madness
If you lead an organization, and people are mired in meeting madness, you can end it. Here are a few tips that can free everyone to finally get some work done.
Admiral Edward Ratcliffe Garth Russell Evans, first Baron Mountevans of ChelseaGuidelines for Delegation
Mastering the art of delegation can increase your productivity, and help to develop the skills of the people you lead or manage. And it makes them better delegators, too. Here are some guidelines for delegation.
Arrival of Cortés in Vera CruzWacky Words of Wisdom: II
Words of wisdom are so often helpful that many of them have solidified into easily remembered capsules. And that's where the trouble begins. We remember them too easily and we apply them too liberally. Here's Part II of a collection of often-misapplied words of wisdom.
The impeachment managers for the impeachment of U.S. President Andrew JohnsonProblem-Solving Preferences
When people solve problems together, differences in preferred approaches can surface. Some prefer to emphasize the goal or objective, while others focus on the obstacles. This difference is at once an asset and annoyance.
An egg sandwichThe Power and Hazards of Anecdotes: I
Anecdotes are short stories — sometimes just a single sentence. They're powerful tools of persuasion, but they can also be dangerous, to both anecdote tellers and anecdote listeners.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness, Problem Solving and Creativity and Conflict Management for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Five almondsComing October 25: Workplace Memes
Some patterns of workplace society reduce organizational effectiveness in ways that often escape our notice. Here are five examples. Available here and by RSS on October 25.
Terminal 3 of Beijing Capital International AirportAnd on November 1: Risk Creep: I
Risk creep is a term that describes the insidious and unrecognized increase in risk that occurs despite our every effort to mitigate risk or avoid it altogether. What are the dominant sources of risk creep? Available here and by RSS on November 1.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenYOwvNSjnVRisTSxrner@ChackQyVYsZxzXnWUruMoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

Ten Project Management Fallacies: The Power of Avoiding Hazards
Most Ten Project Management Fallaciesof what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Workplace Politics Awareness Month KitIn October, increase awareness of workplace politics, and learn how to convert destructive politics into creative politics. Order the Workplace Politics Awareness Month Kit during October at the special price of USD 29.95 and save USD 10.00! Includes a copy of my tips book 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics which is a value!! ! Check it out!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
101 Tips for Managing ConflictFed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you the target of a bully? Learn how to make peace with conflict.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.