Compromise as Art
A Two-Fold Proposition
If compromise is an art, than those who conceive of it must be artists. This tricky but necessary human activity can be as intricate as conglomerate negotiations made behind closed doors. The difference is that, in relationships, compromise means reaching to the innermost core that makes all of us human. One way to understand this is to look at it like my grandpa did. He said compromise requires you to give of yourself twice: Once to concede your absolute desires and again to navigate the other person’s desires.
I fully agree with my grandpa’s eloquent description. But I would take it one step further to say that you must also know what you want. Otherwise, any attempts made at compromise will turn into nothing more than diluted efforts to keep the other person happy. And this does nothing more than discount your own happiness.
Perhaps the best way to start the process of compromise is to ask yourself what you hope to gain. If this feels foreign, ask it of yourself anyway. If you don’t know what you want, nobody else will either.
So, one of the keys to compromise is clearly and concisely articulating your hopes or desires. But there’s a caveat, as my grandpa would say, in that you can’t go into this hoping to manipulate the situation or somehow persuade the other person to give in. True compromise means you meet in the middle of what both parties want. You go into it with honest intentions and omit the “my way or the highway” attitude.
Does all of this mean that compromise makes you weak? If you think this, consider that without it, at least one person in any given relationship will always be set aside. This makes the situation not win-win, but instead win-lose. And if you were ever the person who sacrificed all to receive nothing, then compromise wouldn’t be an indication of weakness, but instead a sign of nobility.
Compromise Drives Relationships
Perhaps the person in my life who best demonstrated the art of compromise was my grandpa. I remember when my grandma tired of driving old Ford Mavericks back in the 1980s and told him she wanted a new car. He adamantly refused to buy a new vehicle because he didn’t want the payment, and as an auto body repairman, he believed old and new cars alike were all made the same. Thus, he didn’t feel it necessary to buy a new car.
But he didn’t leave the argument there. Instead, he compromised and bought a used car that was new to her. Even better, it was a Ford Escort instead of her dreaded Maverick, and she loved that thing right up until its last mile. She took it everywhere and finally admitted its life had expired only after Grandpa said that fixing it (replacing the engine) would cost more than the car was worth.
In other words, their compromise worked beautifully.
I realize not all of life’s situations can be solved so smoothly, but the point is that compromise drives relationships. When one wants something the other doesn’t, compromise allows both to work together until they reach middle ground. It’s no wonder this activity is called an art, for only those who can see past the surface are able to create a clear and pleasing picture in the end.