Getting your way or giving in?

Mastering the art of compromising at work

Compromise is not about losing. It is about deciding that the other person has just as much right to be happy with the end result as you do.

Donna Martini

In today’s workplace, there are many ways in which you will have to engage in compromise. As an employee, you will most likely engage in multifaceted negotiations and discussions with your colleagues, while as an entrepreneur or business leader, you will be involved in a wide array of key business decisions with external partners, and at times resolve conflicts within your own organisation. Learning how to compromise effectively is therefore, a must-have competence in your skills portfolio. 

1. Ace your listening skills

The prerequisite for a solid compromise is to carefully listen to your compromising counterparts, being your colleagues or business partners. The very objective is to clear any assumptions, as well as understand and acknowledge the real needs of your counterparts. Careful listening will provide a solid basis for an open dialogue. Learning to understand and accept other’s ideas is essential. In this regards, transparency is essential. Be direct and clear about your intentions. 

2. Develop multiple scenarios

Effective compromise will hardly be reached with only one option on the table. On the other end, suggesting two or more options will most likely lead to a more desired and satisfactory outcome. To help you develop multiple scenarios, you can resort to a series of game storming problem-solving exercises that will help you think beyond your boundaries. One example is the Force Field Analysis game, a time-tested exercise which helps you to think about the pressures for and against a decision or a change. To proceed, you have to describe your proposal at the center of a piece of paper and list all the forces in favour of change on the left side and the ones opposing change on the right side. Each item listed then get a score according to their level of influence. Based on the total score, you can then decide to move ahead with the desired change or not. 

3. Facilitate compromise

Understanding the context and developing scenarios alone may not be sufficient to build a successful compromise. Understanding and building compromise is not only about the ‘what’ and ‘how’, but equally about the ‘who’. Having a trustworthy mediator or facilitator may be the key to build a solid compromise. Ego, pride among others may adversely impact the compromise. Ask yourself whether you are actually the right person to engage in the negotiation or conflict resolution process. And remember:  

Dialogue cannot exist without humility

Paulo Freire, Brazilian educator and philosopher

By Caroline Lefevre


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