I was watching some sporting event over the weekend and was jolted alert by a Cadillac ad which carried one of the most offensive messages I had ever heard blurt through my speakers. “A weak man urges compromise,” said the narrator as a brand spanking new, full loaded Caddy rolled into view.
Seriously? Who were the people that cooked up that piece of rancid filet mignon? In my experience, refusal to compromise has led to governments that shut down, rampaging armies that blow across a distant desert and, on a more personal level, couples that explode in pain and acrimony. Compromise is actually a sign of confidence and inner strength. Compromise is a sign of resilience. We all have our ideas of the way our lives should go and what we’d like others to do in order to satisfy our needs. Those things aren’t going to happen much of the time. Why? Because almost always, those other people have different, sometimes incompatible needs. This comes up all the time in mediation. That’s why mediators are so valuable. Two (or more) people with deeply felt and important competing needs are challenged by the necessity of resolving their conflict. How do you think that’s going to work when one or both are thinking, “To compromise is to display weakness”?
Compromise does not mean loss. One of the most inaccurate and destructive adages I have heard (and I have heard it frequently from litigating lawyers) is that, “the best settlement is one in which both sides feel equally bad.” Compromise does not mean you are giving up something that pains you to abandon. Rather, it means that you have chosen to relax your insistence that every element of your collection of needs is so important that you will experience pain upon their relinquishment. That is not true for people who can summon up the resilience to understand that all needs are not based on unbreakable principle and a personal goal may be compromised in order to fulfill the needs of the other person(s). Compromise is not a sign of weakness. Effective mediators are also valuable in that positions which one feels they cannot compromise, can be translated (transformed) into “interests” which can be satisfied in a variety of ways. Positions force us to draw lines in the sand. These positions are always, always, supported by needs and interests which can often be satisfied in ways that will allow the other person(s) to experience acknowledgment of their own needs and interests.
Compromise reflecting weakness? Far from it. Shame on you, Cadillac, for projecting this painful myth. Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming.