Is Compromise A Dirty Word?
Whatever happened to middle ground? Has our society totally devalued any stance moved away from their own absolute, especially if they stand on the fringe? Is Moderate Republican now an oxymoron? Is it possible for a Social Progressive to be economically Conservative without scorn? How did we get here and more frightening, is the noise we hear all around us driving leadership in business mirroring our political and social media worlds?
When I started teaching Negotiating classes more than 10 years ago I strongly proclaimed that a successful negotiation was one in which both parties felt like they got something they wanted and it was not necessary for either party to get all they wanted, the old “win-win.” Has the meaning of “win” changed today to where it’s a “fail” if you don’t get all that you want? Have we applied the principles we see in political argument to business tactics in operations or negotiations?
In an argument the goal is to present a point of view in order to influence the belief of another. By it’s nature “argument” is usually laden with emotion and the higher that element the less likely any influence will take hold no matter how sound of reason or logic. Have negotiation behaviors been absconded by an argument mindset? Is leadership today “my way or the highway”? Have we positioned faith and logic in diametric corners never to be re-positioned with reason?
When it comes to leadership it is unlikely that people in power got there with wishy-washy opinions. That is not to say they are argumentative by nature but they are far more likely to be influencers than peace makers. What virtue is revered and pursued by tomorrow’s leaders? Is there any satisfaction in meeting halfway, disagreeing and staying friends, or do we only concede enough to stay firmly on our opinion’s side of the line? What is the havoc we can find in the wake of all win-lose stakes?
While social media arguments are entrenched with hurtful, hateful and angry rhetoric so to has the sophistication of the protagonists polarized opinions. They realize that if you say something enough times then truth becomes hostage to repetition. We are brain-wired to want things to be the way we believe they should be and today we have vilified those who suggest opposite to our belief for what we want. This is discouraging in political and diplomatic discourse but it can be downright disastrous in professional life. For good or bad money often becomes the only mitigation.
If we want to sell a thousand widgets but we end up selling 500 we can claim a victory because we have something tangible to put in the bank. Is it possible that we could find an emotional equivalent to financial compensation. Could we take satisfaction in knowing we have allowed an opponent or opposing opinion to share the direction? When we send someone away who has to take an order with them do we get better results if they go with belief that they have had influence, that they matter, that they are not all wrong or all right?
Unusually for me this post is far more about questions than it is about suggestions or answers but I will conclude with a simple one. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth has emotional pain and pleasure but we all end up blind and toothless. Turning the other cheek may get both your cheeks slapped so while we know what losing looks like, do we understand the price we may pay to win? Maybe instead of offering Negotiating classes I should start an Art of Compromising class. I could offer it to our political leaders. Yeah, you’re right, no one would come.
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