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  • Writer's pictureJerry Brook

Collaboration not Compromise

You’ve probably heard this before—in fact, you might have even said it yourself. You know the phrase, “relationships are compromise.

That’s the common, conventional misconception that I like to call wis-dumb.

You might be thinking; how could he possibly be so against that statement? Aren’t we all taught, and told from a young age, that we shouldn’t be selfish? That we should learn how to make compromises?

Not so fast—not being selfish and compromising are not the same thing.

Let me explain what I mean—I’ll start at, well—I’ll start at the beginning.

What is Compromise?

If we don’t define it—or know what the definition is—then how can we expect to do it, anyway?

The dictionary definition of compromise is a settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions.

That seems straight forward enough, right? But, is it really? By that, I mean, in practical terms, what does compromise actually look like? Would you recognize compromise if you saw it?

Think about it this way—is there’s a compromise on our choice of dinner tonight? You want Italian and I want Chinese. Is the compromise that we blend these two things together? Because, no offense, but I don’t want to eat sweet and sour chicken alfredo or a stir-fried spaghetti with dumplings. I mean, yuck, right?

Is the compromise that neither of us gets our choice and we have to pick something totally different? Because that leaves us in the same predicament of having to decide on a new food that we agree on. And what if we can’t? Do we just not eat tonight?

Is compromise, that one of us must give in and eat the food the other one wants? And if so, which one of us is the loser? If one of us gives in, does that mean that next time the other person must give in? And, who keeps score? I gave up breakfast for you, do you have to give up dinner for me? Are they equal?

Is compromise that we both order what we want as takeout and miss out on the atmosphere of the dining experience?

As you can see, not only do these words have specific meanings and definitions, they also have real-world, practical applications. Just because you have a tidy definition, doesn’t also mean that you have a clear meaning of it—as you can see, we really don’t.

This Brings us to Negotiations

There are five possible ways of negotiating:

  • Collaboration: which is – Win-Win

  • Competition: which is – Win-Lose

  • Compromise: which is – Lose-Lose

  • Acquiescence: which is – Lose

  • Avoidance: which only delays the inevitable, which is one of the above.

Collaboration, competition, and compromise are all two-sided. Acquiescence is one sided—you lose regardless of what the other side does or thinks. Avoidance is one sided too, you’re making the choice without the input of the other side, so it’s only a matter of time before the issue resurfaces.

Can Compromise Really Be That Detrimental?

With competition and compromise, there are two different, possibly conflicting, goals or objectives. With collaboration, there is a single goal or objective with two different—possibly conflicting—methods of solution.

So, competition and compromise are working at odds against each other for different outcomes, where collaboration is working with each other— harmoniously—in order to reach a common outcome. Sure, you may have different ways of achieving the same thing, but what’s important is that in the end you both actually want the same thing.

The question is—why would you want a relationship that is based on compromise or competition against your partner? That sounds like the basis of an unhealthy, adversarial relationship.

Would you want to start each day feeling as if you were having to go into battle in order to have a relationship?

How Can We Transform from Compromise to Collaboration?

Like everything in a relationship, it begins with the two of you. Are you able to both start rethinking and realigning your goals and objectives to be more closely associated with each other?

This may be easier said than done—but trust me, it can be done.

The time spent and effort expended will pay for itself in the amount of saved confusion, contradictions, and resentment, which likely would have happened later on if you continued with your competition and compromise.

Reassess and reconsider your priorities


What is it that you are really trying to achieve? Is it more important to get your own way or is it more important to reach a certain conclusion?

Is it more important that you eat a certain food, which lasts only about thirty minutes? Or, is it more important that the two of you spend quality time together, which is an investment in your relationship?

Compromise and competition both have an element of selfishness, as they are both about you. But, collaboration is about the us and the we, the driving force of a relationship.

Collaboration Challenge —No Compromise or Competition

This week’s challenge is for you to:


  • stop listening to foolish conventional wis-dumb

  • stop repeating, or spreading, foolish conventional wis-dumb

  • stop believing foolish conventional wis-dumb

Good Together: Your Guide to healthy, happy relationships

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