|The holidays are coming, along with lots of plans and decisions that involve your loved ones. Everyone has hopes and expectations for the holidays, and they are not always the same!
What if you want to visit family for the holidays and your spouse wants to stay home?
What if your host keeps urging you to “eat more” and you want to compliment her cooking but you don’t want to overeat?
What if your relatives want to talk politics and you want to avoid controversy but still be true to your convictions?
So many times we hear that we have to be “willing to compromise.” But is that wise? If it’s so wise, why is it so STRESSFUL? How can you know when and when not to compromise?
Knowing the answers to these questions can reduce your stress, improve your self-respect, and increase your enjoyment of life…especially during the holidays.
Healthy, happy relationships with other people magnify your joy in living. But – even though we all share the same needs for physical and psychological health – we differ in our ideas and personal preferences. We may want to work with other people toward a common goal, but we differ on particular issues related to that goal. Under the right circumstances, compromise can offer a mutually beneficial solution.
WHAT IS COMPROMISE?
Compromise has to do with how you treat yourself in relation to your fellow human beings – and how you treat your fellow human beings in relation to yourself.
How you treat yourself when you involve yourself with others includes how you honor your health, your work, your finances, your personal time, and all of your other values when you are with other people.
How you treat your fellow human beings when you involve yourself with others includes whether you choose relationships of submission and control (bully-victim relationships for the benefit of one person at the expense of another) or relationships of mutual respect (voluntary relationships for mutual benefit).
Compromise becomes an issue when two parties in a relationship differ in what they want from each other.Compromise is a mutual agreement arrived at by yielding some part of what both parties want in order to reach a mutually satisfying solution.
For example, the PRICE we pay for the things we want is an ongoing compromise between the buyer and the seller. For any particular item, the buyer wants to pay the least he can pay and the seller wants to get the most he can get. The two parties either arrive at a price they can mutually agree upon, or they choose not to deal with one another.
The same goes for any other kind of human relationship. Some people energize you and magnify your productivity and joy. Other people drain you of your energy and diminish your productivity and joy. For any particular relationship, each party wants to improve their own life through that relationship. The two parties either arrive at certain “rules of engagement” they can mutually agree upon, or they choose not to deal with each other.
HEALTHY AND UNHEALTHY COMPROMISE
Healthy Compromise honors the interests of both parties and arrives at a mutually satisfying solution. The compromise enables both parties to improve their lives through their relationship. For instance, when I am with other people, I still want to eat three healthy meals a day, work at something I love every day, and exercise every day. When I make plans with other people, I can compromise when,how,where and with whom I do these things – but not whether I do these things.
Unhealthy Compromise surrenders of one or both parties’ interests, leaving one or both parties feeling that they gave up too much or gained too little. For instance, when I’m with other people, I still want to maintain my respect for myself and the person I am involved with. I can compromise when it comes to differences in scheduling, personality styles, and preferences, but not when it comes to the basic rules of healthy engagement, such as honesty, integrity, and bully-free (voluntary) action for mutual benefit.
NEVER COMPROMISE ON FUNDAMENTAL REQUIREMENTS
There are certain basic requirements you have to meet in order to sustain and promote your life. If you choose to live and thrive as a full-fledged, mature human being, you cannot afford to compromise what you need for your physical and psychological health. In fact, you must choose to cherish and respect these requirements as your foundation for living a healthy, fulfilling, happy human life – as well as your foundation for healthy, fulfilling, happy human relationships.
Since your basic requirements are based on your nature as a living human being, they are not subject to vote or to compromise. If you do not honor these needs in a relationship, you will become your own worst enemy and harbor a growing resentment toward the other person. The same goes for the other party.
To improve your lives through your mutual relationship, you must not only honor your own needs, you must respect each other’s needs. Since everyone has the same basic requirements, compromise is not appropriate when it comes to choosing between life-promoting actions and life-harming actions – healthy living requires that both you and your fellow human beings take life-promoting actions and avoid life-harming actions!
COMPROMISE WITH CARE ON OPTIONAL CHOICES
Even though we all have the same basic requirements for living, there are many ways we can satisfy each of these requirements. Here’s where compromise can prove helpful.
You can’t compromise on whether you need to eat or sleep or exercise, but you CAN compromise on what and when and how you will eat or sleep or exercise at any given time. This flexibility allows you to make compromises as to your activity, scheduling, and location so you can enjoy doing things with other people.
You can’t compromise on whether you need shelter, but you can compromise on what kind of shelter you choose to live in. This flexibility allows you to make compromises as to your lifestyle and living accommodations with another person.
And you can’t compromise on your necessity to earn your living, but you can compromise on how you will make your living. This flexibility allows you to choose from a whole host of possibilities, locations and schedules for your work and play with other people.
Now suppose you want to visit family for the holidays and your spouse wants to stay home?
ASK WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU
Ask yourself what’s most important to you: to visit family or to be with your spouse. If being with your spouse is more important, see if you can compromise with your spouse by agreeing to stay home together for Christmas but to go visiting together for Thanksgiving – or by getting your family to come visit you and your spouse at your home.
You can apply this same technique to other challenges, such as:
What if your host keeps urging you to eat more and you want to compliment her but you don’t want to overeat? Again, ask yourself what’s most important to you: to compliment the host by overeating or to respect your own health by not overeating. This may be something you don’t want to compromise, but you can get around it by taking a smaller first helping and going back for a small second helping. Or you can eat more slowly and give high vocal praises to the host. If your host still insists you eat more, explain that you don’t feel well when you eat too much at one time, but that you’d like to take some home to eat later.
What if your relatives want to talk politics and you want to avoid controversy but still be true to your convictions? Once more, ask yourself what’s most important to you: avoiding controversy or being true to your convictions. You may decide that, where your family is concerned, it is more important to “keep the peace.” Or you may decide that it is important to talk about serious things with your family but to do so in a mutually respectful way (such as listening to others and then asking questions to get everyone thinking constructively toward possible solutions).
You can take a lot of stress out of your life by giving some real thought about the compromises you make in your own life.
HERE’S HOW TO GET STARTED
How do you know when you can compromise with good conscience and when you cannot?
STEP ONE: On a sheet of paper write the heading WHAT I CANNOT COMPROMISE. Under that heading, write down the things that you do not want to compromise. These are things you value (such as your health, livelihood, honesty and integrity) that you cannot compromise without threatening your physical and psychological health.
STEP TWO: On a sheet of paper write the heading WHAT I CAN COMPROMISE. These have to do with how, where and when you will fulfill the things you value for your life. In the “how,” “where” and “when” of things, you have many choices and you can compromise with confidence.
Under this heading, write down different ways you can be flexible in scheduling time for a loved one or friend without compromising the other things that are important to you. If your friend calls at the last minute and you don’t have time to get your exercising in, you can suggest a fun way to exercise together. Or you can suggest that you get together on another day when you can plan ahead.
STEP THREE: Always HONOR YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOURSELF. Don’t automatically drop something that’s important to you just because someone else wants to do something with you. It helps to keep the big picture of your life in mind so that you never compromise something you value MORE for something you value LESS. And, as you can see, you have many choices for how to go about being true to what you value more.
Once you discover which things you can compromise and which things you can’t, it will vastly reduce your stress, improve your self-respect, and increase your enjoyment of life.
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
For a good article on compromise, I recommend Kathy Caprino’s “What You Should Never Compromise On While Building Your Career” in the September 5th issue of Forbes magazine:
This article is available online at:
For more on healthy and unhealthy compromise, I invite you to read my book, This Is Your Life: No Apology Needed (at www.YourRecipeForLivingCoach.com). You will see that when you have a reliable framework for making your choices, it’s much easier to know when it’s healthy or unhealthy to compromise.
I’d love to hear how these steps work for you — feel free to email me at Terry@YourRecipeForLivingCoach.com, or post a comment on my Break Free Blog atwww.YourRecipeForLivingCoach.com. Please know that you are welcome to share this BREAK FREE TIP by forwarding this message to a friend or colleague.