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Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode (TKI): What's Wrong with Compromising?


Once again, we'll look at one of the conflict handling styles and discuss some of the cons. This time, compromising will be our subject.

As a quick review, here are some of the positive aspects of compromising: it's fast, expedient, pragmatic, creates a sense of fairness, and helps to maintain relationships. All are good and useful in dealing with others, and in many forms of negotiations.

How about the downside? Some of the more common ones include sacrificed concerns. Since people have to give something to get something in compromising, they can be left with the feeling their needs weren't met. Since issues aren't really resolved, they can come up again and again, or lead to mounting frustration with the process. One reason is because people's issues cannot really be compromised. Solutions can be compromises, but people are unlikely to feel satisfied with partial solutions for very long. Imagine a topic dear to you. Perhaps it's mistreatment of children. Would you be willing to compromise and allow some mistreatment of children, as long as most children were treated well? It's unlikely such a solution would please many people.

Related to the above, when people compromise, the solutions reached will probably be unsatisfactory to everyone involved. No one gets exactly what he or she wants, so everyone misses something. Likewise, if we merely find the middle ground, we're unlikely to come up with new or innovative solutions. If my price is $10 and your offer is $6, the temptation will be to say $8. Yet each of us will feel dissatisfied. Perhaps there are other solutions we haven't thought about, such as $10 and with a longer guarantee or some other added value.

Again, since compromising involves meeting in the middle, we may believe we have reached consensus or agreement when it's not the case. In the example above, if we go away with the $8 solution, we may believe the other party is as satisfied as we are. It's rarely that simple. We might misinterpret the other party's reaction to our offers. In other words, we might erroneously believe we are closer to the other person's position than is true. Since compromising is often used for a quick solution, it's even easier to fall into inaccurate beliefs about what was agreed to. Since real negotiation takes considerable time, compromising is often used to get it over with. The lost time has a cost, which can involve misunderstandings and issues that appear to be resolved, but are not.

As always, it's not a matter of using one conflict management style in every situation. The skill is using the appropriate style when needed.


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