Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Compromise: The Key to Happiness

This year's Presidential Inauguration is now a chapter in the history books. Everyone who was involved in planning for the big day must be glad it's over. The public will likely never know the full amount of time and money expended to make the events go smoothly. It's now time to remove the bleachers and get back to work.

However, getting back to work does not necessarily mean that any work will be accomplished. The Congress seems intent on undermining attempts to solve fiscal matters, health care and gun control. In fact, few of the numerous matters needing attention is likely to be resolved.

The Congressional standoff is presently the most highly visible example of a very old problem: in order to get things done, we need to work together. This step may require compromise on the part of everyone involved and for some, the very idea of compromise is a bitter pill to swallow.

Anyone who has ever lived in or near a family understands how compromise works. In order to get a meal on the table, compromise must occur. We might really want meat loaf for dinner. But a savory chicken dish has been cooking in the crock pot all day. We can fuss all we want for meat loaf. Do we fuss? We can fuss, but what good would that do? Anger the cook and create a scene? Risk getting sent to bed without dinner? Why not just say, "I'd like to have meat loaf one of these days. It's always so good." Then smile, sit down and eat the chicken. Everyone gets to eat, no one is upset and you have made a great compliment to the cook.

We grow up learning to compromise. It's the give-and-take approach that gets us through grade school, dealing with friends. We learn when to give and when it might be necessary to stand our ground. It's not a good idea to always give in to the other option. When we feel strongly about something, we should sometimes stand our ground and make our point. Of course, we might eventually have to weaken and cave in. But learning when to relinquish our opinion is part of the compromise process.

As we grow up and enter the work place, compromise is still possible, though often less frequently and less often resulting in an option we would choose. Still compromise makes the world go around. Then by the time that marriage and raising our own family comes along, we are (hopefully) well-schooled in compromise tactics.

Everyone deals with compromise all the time even without recognizing it. You have driven into an intersection with a four-way stop and none of the cars seems willing to proceed first. You might be convinced that it is your turn to cross the intersection but another driver begins to creep forward. Rather than race for the opportunity, you smile and wave the impatient driver to proceed. Compromise.

You go to a favorite restaurant for a special meal. When the waitress comes to take your order, you say without hesitation, "Oh, I'll have the Caesar salad. It's always so good." The waitress smiles and says, "Sorry, that selection is no longer on the menu." You quickly scan the menu and choose another option, although it may not be what you would prefer. "Then I'll have the chef salad." No need to have a tantrum over a few pieces of lettuce. Compromise.

By the time we become adults we have learned -- hopefully -- to act like adults and compromise. When your boss announces that there will be no salary increase this year, you say nothing, at least openly. There will be plenty of time to discuss the matter later with your co-workers, but why make a scene in front of everyone? Compromise.

Many of the problems which confront society today could be resolved or at least tempered by the use of some good old-fashioned compromise. We are too rigid to support our own opinions, hesitant to give an inch as a demonstration of weakness.

I have known some people who stood out as remarkable, with exemplary leadership skills and personal behavior. I consider these folks to be gracious. They were genuine individuals, who valued listening to the input of others and open to sharing ideas. Such characteristics make people more naturally willing to compromise, to listen instead of dominating the conversation with their own ideas.

Perhaps if we were all a bit more willing to listen and compromise, life would be a bit more enjoyable and productive.

No comments:

Post a Comment