Compromise: A Dirty Word?

Is compromise a dirty word? Or has it recently become so?

I’m old enough to remember when compromise was considered a good thing…when people felt that finding common ground and building upon it was beneficial. Compromise was viewed as being a way to avoid extremism.

Today, the radical fringes spew fear so consistently, and vehemently, that they have dirtied the word compromise. To them, compromise is caving. They have no tolerance for anyone who disagrees with them. Indeed, they denigrate, and threaten, those who possess a differing point of view.

One of the reasons that radicals have made a once-effective tool for moderation a tool of divisiveness is that the so called “silent majority” has become even more silent than usual. It’s one thing for the majority to remain silent when things are going well…when compromise is producing moderation. It’s abhorrent to remain silent in the face of radical fringe efforts to take control over our lives.

Confrontation avoidance

To me, it seems that the reason the majority remains silent in the face of fringe efforts to control our lives is that many of us want to avoid confrontation. We don’t want to get into discussions that risk relationships, open ourselves to denigrating labels, disparaging comments, potential threats and exhaust us emotionally. It’s not only understandable, it’s a natural tendency that often serves us well…just not when others are determined to dictate what our values, beliefs and choices should be.

Good news

The good news is that we don’t have to risk confrontation to make our beliefs known. One of the simplest ways to avoid confrontation is to acknowledge the person’s right to their opinion. Language that works well for me is: “I respect your right to your values, beliefs and choices. I hope that you’ll respect mine as well. I believe…”

This language has the effect of removing emotion from the conversation. When emotion wanes our minds open to other perspectives…whether we agree with them or not.

After using the language above, make your point; don’t sell it. A common mistake is to try to get the other party to buy into what you’re saying. That’s not the goal. The goal is to present an alternative way of looking at the situation, then allowing the other person time to consider what you’ve said. Often that occurs after you’ve parted company.

Using this simple approach enables you to express your thoughts, i.e. avoid remaining silent, when you disagree with what’s being said. It also increases the likelihood that a compromise can be reached…in the good sense of the word.

So what does this mean for you?

For you

It’s important that you make your values, beliefs and choices known especially when there is an intrusion of radical, rigid expressions of a desire to control your lives. It’s equally important that you do so without exacerbating the rigidity of the other person’s stance. The steps in the “Good News” section will help you accomplish this goal. Who knows, you may even open the door to a compromised solution…one that benefits both parties.

For our kids

First and foremost, live this message. It’s important that kids see you stand up for your values, beliefs and the right to choose the life you desire. They’ll mimic that behavior in their adult years, if not earlier.

Second, when you see kids trying to sell their idea, teach them how to state their position without creating defensiveness, divisiveness and animosity. You’ll enable them to enjoy a life virtually free of conflict and more fulfilled by the valuable relationships they develop.

Share with them how compromise, when structured to benefit all parties, is a good thing. Help them see that while they may not get everything they want, they’ll end up with more when they help the other party’s needs get met.

Finally, impress upon them the importance of not remaining silent in situations in which others are attempting to dictate values, beliefs and choices to them. Remind them that people who strive to control others can only be countered by those willing to speak up for the alternative…every individual’s right to their values, beliefs and choices.

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