Meaningful dialogue is an elusive thing in our communities. Having a respectful conversation with someone about something on which we do not agree isn’t common. Yelling opinions over someone else or building a newsfeed that reinforces your worldview are common in a world with fewer and fewer great conversations. There is so much potential in dialogue, which is why this blog is exploring what makes for great conversations over the next few weeks – we have investigated why conflict is a good thing, how to suspend judgment, and how to be a good listener. This week we’re focusing on how to compromise, which is a critical part of dialogue that is so often absent in conversations. Enjoy!
How to Compromise
Compromising is tough. Sometimes I know I’m right and compromising seems like surrendering my point of view. While in the moment you may feel righteous by holding your ground, it’s hard to develop a reciprocal conversation if both sides don’t suspend judgment, focus on really hearing the other perspective and, ultimately consider altering their thinking a little with a compromise. After all, no one likes to be lectured at or talked down to, and that’s what it feels like when a conversation is one-sided.
Take a win/win approach
In most conversations, negotiations and dialogue there are points where all sides agree. The sooner you can identify these topics of mutual interest – and the more time you can spend building off them (as opposed to issues of divergence) – the more likely you’ll be able to find a compromise that addresses both sides’ core issues. Identifying areas of common interest and agreement is a good strategy for the initial stages of your dialogue. Probing to understand (rather than contradict) also demonstrates understanding and empathy through active listening. For more about exploring non zero-sum negotiation, check out Getting to Yes.
If you are like me, conceding a point can feel like a loss. But more often than not, conceding something – an unimportant caveat or tangential/secondary position – can be an important demonstration of your flexibility. It also makes the other person that much more likely to make their own baby steps towards to the middle of the road. Letting things go also improves your capacity to move forward towards a compromise by removing (often small and petty) recriminations we all cling to which can at times significantly inhibit reaching an agreement.
Acknowledging your own movement can be easy. But sometimes it is more difficult to recognize the other person’s willingness to compromise. While you want to avoid thumbing it in your partner’s face, it’s valuable to be aware of the steps you’ve taken away from your original position and towards theirs. The more we discuss and celebrate reciprocity the closer we get to weaving it into our daily conversations, negotiations and debates.