how to compromise

Coming to a compromise can be incredibly difficult, no matter if it’s with your boss at work, or with your significant other. Fortunately, there are ways to make the compromise happen more easily and less painfully. Coming to the table open to compromise and being willing to listen, are two of the big ones!

1. Calm down. Compromise, even ones that happen at work, can be emotional and frustrating for all parties. Before you try to hammer out the details so that everyone gets something that they want, you should take a step back from the emotions you have invested in your side.

  • Even if it’s just for a few minutes, take time to go somewhere by yourself and talk yourself through what you want or need out of the compromise. It’s especially important if this is something you need to do with your boss, or there is a lot riding on this compromise.
  • If you can’t take a little time to yourself, then just take three deep breaths, all the way down into your diaphragm. This will help to calm your nervous system and make it easier for you to process information and effectively present your side of things.

2. Lead with open-ended questions and statements. You want to get a sense of what the other person wants out of the compromise. You also want the other person to feel like they’re being heard. The best way to get a compromise is to really listen to the other side.

  • Ask questions like: “why do you feel that way about X?” and “How can we do this better?”
  • For statements say things like “Help me understand more about this situation/your side.”

3. Be respectful. To get any sort of compromise you need to be respectful about the other person’s point-of-view, even if you don’t agree with it. Respect the other person and their idea and show that you respect them.

  • Don’t call names or use words like “stupid, “useless,” or say things like “Why would you even propose that?” or “That would never work!” Denigrating the other person will make them dig in more firmly on their own side and it will be harder to create compromise.
  • For example: if someone at work proposes an idea that is different than your idea, don’t talk about how bad the idea is, or why it’s a bad idea. You can point out it’s flaws, while still being respectful. In fact, you can propose ways to make their plan more workable.

4. Create common ground. Remember, you and the other person both want to come to some sort of agreement. Being stuck in a stalemate doesn’t get anyone what they want. try to find something that you both can agree on, even if it’s a small thing. It will create good will between you both.

  • Signal your commitment to settle the disagreement. This way the other person will feel like you’re both working towards the same end, even if you’re coming at it from different points-of-view. This means listening closely to the other person, asking if there are ways to combine both your ideas and showing that you understand why it’s important to the other person.
  • The common ground could even be something small, like a joke, as long as it creates some sort of bond between both of you. For example: you could start off a meeting by saying that you’re all probably looking to get to lunch!

5. Present your side. It’s best to give your version or side of things in a calm, rational manner. This is the time for you to show why you want what it is that you’re proposing and what the benefits of it are.

  • Give facts. The more ways you can validate your feelings and opinions, the more likely the people you’re reasoning with will consider your position.
  • For example: if you’re trying to get a four-day workweek instituted at your workplace (good luck with that) don’t just say that you want it because you’re tired all the time and need a better break. Instead, present statistics and studies that have been done on worker productivity and how much better employees do when they have a better break.

6. Offer more than one possible compromise. A good way to find something that works for everyone is to offer more possibilities. Combine ideas in different ways and see if you can come up with creative solutions to the problem.

  • Brainstorm with the opposition. Answer the questions: what are you trying to accomplish? If there was no obstacle, how would you approach the problem? What would be the optimum solution for you both?
  • Come into the discussion with several different options that you’re willing to work on with the other person.

7. Aim for agreement not for winning. If you come into a situation where you’re looking for compromise, you can’t try to “win” it, because you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. Winning is when you and the other person both feel like they’ve gotten what they wanted, or something approximate to what they wanted.

  • Try to avoid being super attached to your version of things. You can want things to go your way, without shutting down the other person, as long as you listen and consider their side of the equation.


Remember that compromises are win-win situations; don’t do anything that could make one side lose, or you will end up getting played or being avoided when it comes to future compromises.

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