When is Compromise a Sign of Strength?
As children, many of us read in our U.S. history classes about the “great compromiser,” Henry Clay, congressman and secretary of state under John Quincy Adams. Clay argued effectively for compromise on major issues of the day. A young Abraham Lincoln admired him as an ideal statesman.
Compromise has become repulsive to many in the current U.S. Congress – a sign of weakness rather than a pragmatic way forward when opposing parties disagree strongly. This wholesale denigration of a fundamental part of negotiation leaves aspiring statespersons, and people who would follow their lead in professional and personal life, figuratively limping about as if missing one of their legs. Our persuasion and negotiation options are being limited because a core strategy is being rendered unusable.
To disparage compromise as a sign of moral or intellectual weakness is foolhardy and deceptive. So often nowadays we read or hear, “We will not compromise” even before discussions begin on national issues. Such an attitude disguises an inability to engage in the process with any degree of success.
Compromise is challenging. It requires us to understand and even appreciate the views of people with whom we staunchly disagree. This is hard work; it’s much easier to remain entranced by one’s own views.
But, where would the world be without the advancements enabled by many centuries of compromise in governance, commerce, finance, industry, marriage and other aspects of life?
What to do? It’s time for myopic leaders to step back and think about what constitutes good compromise -- for all of us to do so. What characteristics of time, place, opportunity, and amount justify the effort to move away from intransigent positions to some level of agreement?
Here are five key conditions under which compromise is likely to be a constructive alternative to such dogmatism:
(1) Prioritizing -- When the outcome you (or others you represent) may obtain is significantly better than current conditions.
(2) Anticipating -- When compromise on the obstacle issue would open the door to movement forward on a more important issue.
(3) Relational Focus -- When refusal to compromise is likely to exert long-term or even irreparable harm to the relationships of the parties involved.
(4) Fairness or Balance -- When reciprocity requires at least some compromise for working or personal relationships to endure.
(5) Breaking habits – In order to interrupt a dysfunctional pattern that the parties have inadvertently, mindlessly or antagonistically adopted.
There are others, but these are important considerations before shutting down the option of compromise.
Amputating a valuable method for dealing with disagreement is as intellectually, psychologically and politically dysfunctional as it is just plain ludicrous. Standing pat in order to appear strong actually results in the appearance, and often the reality, of weakness. When the issues are complex and threatening to healthy relationships and a civilized society, the more strategies available the better.
Step inside the unlikely friendship of a former ACLU president and an ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justice.
- Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia were unlikely friends. They debated each other at events all over the world, and because of that developed a deep and rewarding friendship – despite their immense differences.
- Scalia, a famous conservative, was invited to circles that were not his "home territory", such as the ACLU, to debate his views. Here, Strossen expresses her gratitude and respect for his commitment to the exchange of ideas.
- "It's really sad that people seem to think that if you disagree with somebody on some issues you can't be mutually respectful, you can't enjoy each other's company, you can't learn from each other and grow in yourself," says Strossen.
- The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Learn how to redesign your job for maximum reward.
- Broaching the question "What is my purpose?" is daunting – it's a grandiose idea, but research can make it a little more approachable if work is where you find your meaning. It turns out you can redesign your job to have maximum purpose.
- There are 3 ways people find meaning at work, what Aaron Hurst calls the three elevations of impact. About a third of the population finds meaning at an individual level, from seeing the direct impact of their work on other people. Another third of people find their purpose at an organizational level. And the last third of people find meaning at a social level.
- "What's interesting about these three elevations of impact is they enable us to find meaning in any job if we approach it the right way. And it shows how accessible purpose can be when we take responsibility for it in our work," says Hurst.
Erik Verlinde has been compared to Einstein for completely rethinking the nature of gravity.
- The Dutch physicist Erik Verlinde's hypothesis describes gravity as an "emergent" force not fundamental.
- The scientist thinks his ideas describe the universe better than existing models, without resorting to "dark matter".
- While some question his previous papers, Verlinde is reworking his ideas as a full-fledged theory.
TuSimple, an autonomous trucking company, has also engaged in test programs with the United States Postal Service and Amazon.
PAUL RATJE / Contributor
- This week, UPS announced that it's working with autonomous trucking startup TuSimple on a pilot project to deliver cargo in Arizona using self-driving trucks.
- UPS has also acquired a minority stake in TuSimple.
- TuSimple hopes its trucks will be fully autonomous — without a human driver — by late 2020, though regulatory questions remain.