COMPROMISING: HOW AND WHEN
I should go with the flow.
Why complicate things?
It’s not fair to burden them.
It’s easier to just do it myself.
If these thoughts sound familiar, you are not alone. Women are socialized from a very young age to compromise our needs and happiness behind the needs of family, friends, bosses, even strangers.
It’s no wonder that women tend to have a complicated relationship to compromise.
Most of us have internalized the belief that other people’s happiness is more important than our own.
Which means that many of us have compromised our values or our relationships with ourselves in order to prioritize other people. And we have been praised and rewarded for doing so.
At the same time, most of us have also experienced relationships and situations where compromise is helpful and growth-promoting.
So how do you know when to compromise?
The only way to know is to ask yourself WHY you are compromising.
Do you like your reasons?
Do you like the way they make you feel?
Do you like the way you act when you feel that way?
Do you like the RESULTS you get from thinking, feeling, and acting that way?
Exploring what you are THINKING about any given situation, and exploring what results you ultimately want to create, will help you feel good about your decision.
Compromise will not feel good when:
- You want to compromise because you think you should
- You’re doing so because you’re afraid you’ll be a bad person if you don’t
- You’re worried you’ll upset the other person or lose your relationship with them if you don’t
- You think compromising is the “fair” thing to do
Because whenever you compromise in order to try and avoid feeling bad, you will end up feeling bad regardless.
If you’re compromising to avoid the shame you think you’ll feel if you don’t, you are bound to feel rebellious and dissatisfied with your decision.
If you’re compromising to try and control someone else’s emotions so you don’t have to feel bad about making THEM feel bad, you’re bound to feel anxious or resentful or both.
Whenever your reasons for compromising are coming from avoidance, scarcity, anxiety, or righteousness, they will feel bad (even if you’re doing so for a “noble” cause).
If you’re compromising with your partner about moving to a new city and you don’t want to move because you’re afraid you won’t be able to make new friends, then you will feel anxious, agitated, and maybe even resentful. If you refuse to compromise out of resentment that they even asked you, you will feel defensive and righteous.
That’s why I recommend giving yourself the freedom to figure out what you really want from a place of abundance and curiosity, rather than fear, scarcity, anger, avoidance or shame.
Try asking yourself what you would do if you knew that:
- You were allowed to want whatever you want and that there’s no moral obligation to compromise (or not compromise!)
- You could be happy with any outcome
- You knew you didn’t cause other people’s feelings
- You cared more about the RESULTS that you get from compromising (or not) than you did about feeling comfortable or certain, and
- You knew that taking actions to teach other people a lesson or try and control their behavior does not work
These questions are helpful because they allow you to connect to your values and identify if an important value is at stake.
For instance, you may not like the idea of staying with your partner’s parents for the holidays. But you may want your kids to have a relationship with their grandparents, so you compromise to make that happen – because you’ve decided you like the result of your kids spending time with their grandparents more than you like the result of staying home.
On the other hand, if there isn’t a core value at stake, then you’re more likely operating from rigidity or defensiveness and the situation is likely to feel unsatisfying whether you make it or not.
Finally, keep in mind that compromising is not a moral issue. You never need a good reason to compromise or not compromise. There is no score to keep when it comes to compromising. Whether or not you compromise has no impact on your worth as a human. There’s no universal “fairness” to be portioned out.
You always get to choose whether or not to compromise, by asking yourself WHY you would be compromising or not compromising.
Identify the thought you’re having about the situation, and ask yourself if you like the thought, feeling, and result you would create.
The question is not “should I compromise?” The question is always “what am I THINKING about this situation, and do I want to keep that thought?”
That simple question is the key to knowing when to compromise and when to hold firm.