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A Psychologist Explains How to Compromise and Why You Need to

A Psychologist Explains How to Compromise and Why You Need to

In today’s world, I see so many people focused on ensuring that they get what they need and what they want.

It is all about me, me, me!

I feel as though I notice this most when I am driving. Maybe it is living in Florida “in season” (meaning, when all your older loved ones have gone south to escape your winter weather but are clogging up our roads). People are always vying to be first, needing to get ahead of you, or focused only on where they need to go, unaware of anyone around them. For example, envision a lane that is coming to an end—you know that bottleneck where everyone is more important than someone else?

However, I also see the opposite. People who continuously give, give, give and become drained.

It tends to be women (not that I am trying to stereotype); the mother who always gives her adult son money for his bills when she is on a fixed income and then has to pay a fine for her electric bill that is late. Or, the girl in the cubicle next to you who keeps saying yes when the boss gives her more work, but she can’t handle what’s already on her plate. You wonder why people do this because it is so unhealthy all around! I know, and unfortunately, these people have not learned the art and gift of compromise.

Compromise changes everything.

We are meant to be in community together—meaning we give and take. There are times when you are on the receiving end, and there are times you are the one giving. When I was first married, I was in a study called I Marriage by Andy Stanley. My greatest takeaway from that seminar was understanding that if we come to marriage with all the big “I”s such as “I expect you to…”; “I want you to…”; “I need you to…” marriage will be disappointing. However, if we focus on how we can serve that person we love so much as to tie ourselves to them forever, then we will have a much happier marriage. So, hey, I know it is his chore to empty the dishwasher, but he is having a tough week so, I will do it. Or, he always treats when we go out, so I am going to surprise him and treat.

I see this in my work as a psychologist.

Most of my work is in the divorce arena. This can be a tough and conflictual time in people’s lives—fighting over the children, money, the house, investments, and the list go on. I have had a case where they were fighting over a horse and another over a dog. I hear judges talk about cases where they are listing every dish, piece of silverware, etc. and focused on “fair.” It is safe to say that I have never seen a fair divorce. The fighting will continue forever if no one learns to compromise. (If you’re facing divorce, be sure to listen to our podcast episode featuring an attorney who explains it all and gives her expert advice.)

When compromising, make a list.

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I am also a Florida Certified Mediator, and one of the things I encourage people to do before going to mediation (which, in my belief, is synonymous with compromise) is to make a list of what you want. I recommend itemizing the list from most important to things of which you can let go. When you can do this, you will be in a place to negotiate because you can compromise. For example, as long as you can have the dog, you don’t need the ATV too. While doing so, you may realize that you’ll need your mom to pick up the kids, so it would be fair to allow his mom to do so also. If you know that he works late hours on Mondays and Tuesdays, it is fair for you to take the children those days. When you do this, you will encourage him to let you have Wednesdays and Thursdays because your job is more flexible

That is compromise: realizing that you do not need your way on every single thing. Meet in the middle, realizing life is full of give and take. Sometimes you will be doing more chores at home because your husband’s work is crazy for a season; understand that there will be weeks when you are not able to do as much around the house, and he will step up to the plate. It is fine to not always go to dinner at your favorite places; let others pick theirs too.

So, how do we start our journey of compromise?

I think the first step is learning to have empathy for the person with whom you are compromising. What is going on in that person’s mind? What matters to him or her? Is your sister demanding to host Easter again even though she has every year, but you would like to have it at your home? Well, does she have children and is scared of them making a mess in your house or a family member with allergies that is anxious to eat elsewhere?

The next step is to decide how important your position is in this disagreement. Are you just trying to prove a point or does this idea matter to you? And if it does matter, why? Do you feel like your sister doesn’t want to come to your home for the holiday because she makes you feel like your home isn’t nice enough? Maybe that calls for a conversation with your sister about what was said or done that made you feel that way. (Keep in mind that you’ll need an open ear and heart, as it may not have been her intention.) Or, you realize, “Ehh, hosting a holiday is a lot of work; I don’t need to” and the issue is over. Or, a compromise might be that the Easter egg hunt is at one home and the dinner at another.

Compromise is simply deciding whether or not the issue at hand matters, why, and what can be done to strike a happy balance.

Learning to compromise is worth the effort.

Compromising can be an art. It is a song and dance in learning how to communicate with others. The key is learning that your wants, demands, and needs are not always what is best in a relationship where you care about the other person or just need to move beyond this issue. When you choose to stick to your point and not listen to others in the hope of finding a solution, you become angry and bitter. We know that both of those feelings lead to significant unhappiness and loneliness in life. And when you encounter someone who refuses to compromise, it is a sign that that person can be draining and probably not a healthy person to spend much time with.

With that said, in an I-focused world, learning to compromise with others will not only make your life less stressful, but it will also make you a nicer person to be around! So, hey, do the courteous thing and let someone in front of you. You may make their day; you will feel lighter for compromising, and let’s be real…you won’t be any later getting where you need to be.

Disclosure: Some of the link above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Grit and Grace Life will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

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Dr. Christina is a licensed psychologist in a private practice who mostly specializes in children's issues as well as family law. She’s a Midwestern native, wife, and mom of two living in Florida who travels north often to enjoy the beauty of the seasons.

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