There are many times in our lives that we are asked to compromise our desires for different options. We face this daily in different forms from situations in our relationships to the office and even to the smallest choices in our day.
Making compromises is a pure fact of life, as the Rolling Stones once poetically sang, “You can’t always get what you want”. Wouldn’t life be boring anyway if everything went exactly as we wished and we always got what we wanted?
The challenge becomes when compromise becomes a concession. It is one thing to accept less than you desire because the choice is not all that important to you or your needs, it is entirely different to limit yourself to accepting only what is available forgoing your needs or values.
A while back I was speaking to a friend about dating. I had been single for many years and was ready to make some time to get back into dating. When explaining what I was looking for, she mentioned a couple of men we both knew and I identified why each was not a good fit for me. She looked at me with a smile and said, “Your problem is you’re too picky, you’re going to have to make some compromises.”
As certain talks stay with me long after the conversations are over, this one took up temporary residence in my head and visited me several more times. I came to the conclusion that there is a difference between compromise and conceding.
This is as true for relationships, careers, material goods, it actually is something that we each deal with daily. There are certain things you compromise on, like what movie to watch on family night, where to go to dinner, if you will take a job that is not entirely what you want but has “most” of your desires.
There are things however that go beyond compromise or bending of your desires and end up not meeting your needs. The key is finding a middle ground or forfeiting something that is important. The important question becomes, how do you know when you are compromising or conceding?
This may seem like a silly question or one that shouldn’t need to be asked, but I have seen so many people that are so used to forgoing their needs that they no longer know the answer.
The first thing is to know what you need. If you aren’t clear about what you need in any given circumstance you set yourself up for making a concession. By knowing what you need you can easily spot situations or decisions where none of the options will be acceptable.
For example, if you are hungry and you need food but the only options available are foods you are allergic to so you just don’t eat; that would be a clear concession. However, if in the same circumstance you find yourself with your partner and you need food and would like Italian, but the only thing available is Mexican and your partner loves Mexican food, then choosing one style of food over another will simply be a compromise.
Knowing your values is another key factor. A choice that goes against your value system is never a compromise and is a clear sign of concession.
I used to work for a company and made good money but when I requested time off to see my family back home I was told I couldn’t go, it wasn’t in the best interest of the company. My value system revolves around connection and my family is an important part of that, not money; the moment I was denied the time to see them I realized this was a concession.
I choose connection over money because that is where my values lie. Making money is truly important, but the number in my bank account is far less important to me than being with my family if they need me. Values are a strong governing principle and do not have room for being cast aside for any reason.
If you find yourself willing to compromise your values, I suggest you reevaluate if that particular value still resonates with you. If the answer is yes, then my experience is that any compromises is a concession, or dangerously close to one.
I encourage you to think about the choices you make daily and give them a values test. Making the occasional compromise is generous and kind, making it a habit boarders on overlooking your own needs. Pay attention when making even the smallest decisions and be honest with yourself about this topic and it will prove to be a nicer gift to both yourself and those around you when you do compromise.