“Better bend than break.” – Scottish proverb

In yesterday’s post, we learned how to use the dialectical behavior therapy tool of R-A-V-E-N to prepare ourselves for effective negotiation.  When we are in a situation involving conflict or even mild disagreement, it is important that we feel confident in our ability to compromise.  When we compromise, each person is able to get some of his/her needs met.

If one person is getting everything they want, with the other person caving in, there is no compromise.  These unbalanced interactions are likely to build resentment in the long-term, which is one of the many reasons that learning how to find solutions through compromise is so important for harmonious relationships.

Interpersonal Effectiveness: Compromise Solutions

Now that we feel confident in our ability to face conflict and enter into negotiation from a calm, mindful, and empathic stance, we are prepared to learn about how to come to a compromise with another person.  The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook (McKay, Wood, & Brantley, 2007) offers some excellent compromise solutions to explore.

(1) I’ll cut the pie; you choose the first piece

A simple example of this type of compromise might be when a couple is unable to decide what to do together on a night out.  One partner might suggest going out to the movies as an activity, but then allow the other person to choose the specific movie.

(2) Take turns

One way of practicing compromise in a relationship is to allow for taking turns.  If one person’s favorite afternoon outing is a walk in the park and the other person’s ideal afternoon would be going to the beach, then both people can offer to take turns going to both places.

(3) Do both; have it all

Try to seek out ways where both people can get at least some of both of their needs met at the same time.

(4) Trial period

When trying out a new way of being together in a relationship, it can be helpful to openly discuss willingness to “try something new/different” for a specific length of time.  When this trial period is up, the couple can then evaluate how effective their new strategy was.

(5) My way when I’m doing it; your way when you’re doing it

This involves respect for the other person, recognizing that individuals have different go-to methods for dealing with problems.  This compromise solution involves giving your partner the space to use his/her own preferred coping skills.

(6) Tit for tat

While “keeping score” is unlikely to lead towards lasting harmony, it can be helpful when compromising to make mutual agreements that you pledge to stick to.  An example of this may be that one partner agrees to do the laundry if the other partner agrees to empty the trash.

(7) Part of what I want with part of what you want

As adults we must learn that it is hopelessly unrealistic to expect to get all of our needs met all of the time.  If you did get everything you wanted all of the time, you would likely begin to appreciate it less.  This compromise solution entails “meeting halfway.”  An example might be if one person is in a rush to get to an evening event, but the other person is feeling drained or tired.  A compromise here might involve one partner being willing to drive and let the other partner take a nap in the car.

(8) Split the difference

This compromise solution involves open back-and-forth communication about something such as how much time to spend on a task together or how early to leave for an event.  If one partner would like to leave for the airport 4 hours early and the other wants to leave 2 hours early, then it might be helpful to “split the difference” by leaving 3 hours early.

How can you begin to integrate these compromise solutions into your next negotiation with a friend, coworker, or partner?  What small compromises and sacrifices can be commit to?  When we are actively seeking out ways to instill and promote harmony with our relationships, a positive side effect is often a lessening of resistance from the other person.  When people sense that your goal is about connecting and compromising, as opposed to defending and demanding, they are more receptive towards you.  Try reflecting on just one compromise solution to keep in mind for today.

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McKay, M., Wood, J.C., & Brantley, J. (2007). The dialectical behavior therapy skills workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Featured image: partnership agreement by o5com / CC BY 2.0

About Laura K. Schenck, Ph.D., LPC

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Northern Colorado. Some of my academic interests include: Dialectical Behavior Therapy, mindfulness, stress reduction, work/life balance, mood disorders, identity development, supervision & training, and self-care.

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