The Art Of Compromise

Compromise is divisively perceived either as something weak and negative or humbling and positive. Where do you sit on the spectrum? Your opinion on the matter might influence the amount of stress you feel.

The origin of the word  “compromise” means to make a mutual promise. This promise exists not only with others, but with ourselves. As we might compromise in a business negotiation, we also compromise when we wisely accept our own shortcomings.

In her compelling TED talk, Charly Haversat, an ex-professional athlete and self-proclaimed recovering perfectionist, reflects that an obsession with perfectionism, or an unwillingness to compromise, has led to dire consequences:

We’ve lost our ability to negotiate incremental gains.”


In other words, we are willing to forsake making any progress if that progress doesn’t fit our perfect standards. 

Continuing to resist compromise in professional and personal circumstances is a great way to stay stuck and its also a good way to increase the amount stress in our lives. Disagreements are exhausting. Compromise is often humbling and productive at the same time.

Psychology professor Christopher Peterson mentions the values closely associated with compromise: tolerance, flexibility, open-mindedness, cooperation and teamwork. These are values that many of us would strive to embody. They are also critical for success in business and in life.

If the idea of compromise leaves a funny taste in your mouth, keep the following in mind:

Accept that you don’t always have to be right (or perfect).

The ego is quick to feel threatened. But the need to be right is energy-draining. Striking a compromise means that while you may not “win” the whole argument, you are prioritising the relationship.

You might learn something new.

Sometimes we’re unwilling to compromise because we think things should go a certain way. Yet trying to control the outcome leaves less room for learning and surprises. Relax, let go, and let someone else take the wheel sometimes.

Your relationships could benefit.

An unwillingness to compromise might win you the label of “difficult” or “disagreeable.” It’s not about being a pushover, but rather about working with others. People will notice and appreciate it.

Perhaps we are going about it all wrong: maybe we shouldn’t strive for “perfect,” but for “good enough” and “better,” as Haversat puts it. This is where the art of compromise plays a big role. Learn to embrace it and you may just feel more at ease.