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When to Compromise and When Not To

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Posted 16 February 2011 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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When to compromise and when not to

Compromise is the act of finding the middle-ground between two opposing points of view, in the hope of finding the "Happy medium" that is acceptable to both parties. It can be a useful and valid method of handling conflict situations or solving dilemmas.
BUT..
It can also be a terrible mistake that will cost you all your credibility as a decision maker!

Please be aware that there are circumstances that demand that you do compromise; and that there are many others that demand you should stand firm and do NOT compromise.

If you compromise too much, at the wrong time you will, yourself, be compromised.

SO this article concerns the question of when to compromise and when to refuse to compromise.

You need to know two principles; they are:

1. The golden mean
2. Law of identity

The golden mean

The golden mean is the law of compromise. The golden mean states:
"The good is to be found midway between two extremes".
The assumptions are that those extremes are bad; that moderation is good; and that finding the middle ground in all things is the key to finding the best way forward.

Examples

Example 1

  • Extreme eating is bad (gluttony)
  • Extreme NOT eating is BAD (anorexia and starvation)
  • The good is moderate eating

Example 1

  • Extreme hot weather is bad
  • Extreme cold weather is bad
  • Moderate weather is the good

Example 1

  • Extreme spending of your money is bad
  • Extreme NON spending of money is bad (miserliness)
  • Moderate spending is the good ( prudence)

Example 1

  • Extreme aggressive tendencies are bad (Violent personality)
  • Complete absence of aggressive tendency is bad (timidity)
  • Moderate aggressive urges is the good (strength of will and assertiveness)

You can see examples could be generated endlessly

The idea is that you should always seek to find the middle ground: the so called golden mean, the happy medium. That things are not black or white, but shades of grey.

Always, in your dealings with others you must seek to find the middle ground.

You have heard all of this. And it is true. BUT NOT ALWAYS!

There is also "The law of identity" to consider.

The law of identity

There are many instances where the golden mean DOES NOT and MUST not apply.
Those instances are where the law of identity applies.

The law of identity is black and white, binary thinking.

When thinking in "the binary code" you might legitimately say:

  1. Yes or no?
  2. On or off?
  3. Are you in or not?
  4. More than 100 or not?

Examples

  • You are pregnant or not: which one? (You cannot be middle ground pregnant)
  • You are married, or not (you cannot be "kinda married")
  • You are either in the U.K. or you are not.
  • You either took it, or you didn't. Which one?
  • You are on time or not? Which one?
  • You said it or you didn't? Which one?

"Yes or no?" Is often a legitimate question

Sometimes you must pick yes or no and not keep trying to say "Yes and no" (Which stems from the golden mean thought process)

There are many instances that are binary issues: black and white: there is no compromise

For example

Issues of dishonesty

There is no middle ground for dishonestly defrauding the company, (one hopes).

Issues relating to breaches of health and safety

There is no middle ground for endangering people through neglect.

Race discrimination

There is no middle ground for unfairly treating people because of racial heritage.

Your homework

Is to make a list of contexts where it is right for you to give ground and compromise.
Make a list of five and write down WHY it is right to find the middle ground.

Then, make a second list of contexts where it is right for you to NOT give ground: but rather to NOT compromise: to stand firm and say "NO".

Make a list of five and write down WHY it is right to refuse to find the middle ground

Summary

Compromise can be a useful and valid method of handling conflict situations or solving dilemmas
But it can also be a terrible mistake that will cost you all your credibility as a decision maker!

Learn to recognise when you are facing a situation that demand compromise (golden mean)
Learn to recognise when you are facing a situation that demands NO compromise (law of Identity)

Don't get them mixed up!

If you agree, with this approach, and you want to know more about the training please follow this link to our 2-day management training course

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