When people read the results of the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), they can reach the conclusion that compromising is the best style. In fact, each of the 5 styles works well in some situations and poorly in others. The skill is to know when to use each style.
Compromising can help move things along. When two parties disagree, splitting the difference often makes quick work of the hurdles stopping agreements. Each person gives up something and each person gains something, so folks believe they've been treated fairly. Many people consider this style to be quite pragmatic. It gets the best possible results from what's available. Others note that meeting people halfway helps keep important relationships intact. Few people will walk away from such an agreement feeling like they've been taken advantage of.
Here are some areas where this style can be used: if you're under time pressure to make a decision, when two parties of equal importance are facing a win-lose situation, and when being more assertive would harm the relationship. One method to use for compromising is to make partial concessions. You give up something in the negotiations, then wait for the other party to do the same. You'll want to insist on fairness. It's best if you can agree at the beginning of any negotiations that both sides will consider what's fair for the other. Trying to be objective and gathering facts beforehand will make this part of the process go more smoothly.
As with each of the styles, there are some potential disadvantages to this system. For example, because both sides give up something, it's possible some real concerns will not be taken care of, or the issue won't truly be resolved, leaving residual frustration that can come back. Further, compromising might not lead to the best solution to the problem. It might be quicker, but will it be better than longer, more concerted negotiations? It's also true that the numbers on the paper might not be the real issue. You might reach agreement on the surface, neglecting the feelings and beliefs of those involved. It's important to avoid appearing weak when offering a compromise to the other party. If the others are still trying to compete, they might decide to wait and see what else you'll offer. Instead, you might ask if they agree you've reached an impasse and a new strategy is called for.
Naturally, it's easier to give up small things than large. Remember, if the issue is vital to you or your organization, compromise won't work. Ethical issues are one example of an area that can't be resolved by compromising. We've seen companies who apparently did so and the resulting trouble it caused.
To be sure you're not taken advantage of, make sure both sides take turns bearing small costs. Examples include taking turns paying for lunch, meeting at the other person's office, or car pooling. As long as both sides feel the other is being fair, the system can work well.
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