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Why Compromise is Dead as a Negotiation Strategy

Why Compromise is Dead as a Negotiation Strategy

by Dr. David Gruder

Compromise is the process of finding a middle ground between two positions or solutions. The middle ground is not capable of generating sustainable solutions to today’s problems. Because of this our society may at last be on the brink of evolving beyond our traditional over-reliance on compromise as a first-choice problem-solving strategy.

Why is compromise an ineffective negotiation strategy in the twenty-first century? Today’s world is far more interconnected than it has ever been. Today’s challenges are far more complex than they have ever been. The best obtainable outcome compromise can create is an agreement in which all parties walk away from the negotiating table feeling equally ripped off. This is why compromise is an inadequate strategy for creating sustainable solutions.

Most people know only one other problem-solving strategy than compromise: coercion. If there is a method of solving problems that is even worse than compromise, it’s coercion.

If remedies for our challenges cannot be created by compromise or coercion, then what problem-solving strategy can do this? Fortunately, there is a third negotiation style. It is called synergy. Synergy integrates everyone’s perspectives in order to form a complete picture. Integrated pictures in turn reveal more complete solutions than any single perspective can see on its own. This is how synergy takes people far beyond compromises unsatisfying ritual of meeting in the gray middle.

Humility is the gateway into synergy. Recognizing that no single party can accurately grasp the big picture is the kind of humility that synergy requires. There are two ingredients beyond humility that synergy requires:

1. Clarifying Core Intentions: This requires inquiring about what people want from the solutions they have proposed. When you understand the most important thing someone is seeking from the solution they are proposing you have identified their core intention.

2. Connecting the Dots Between Core Intentions: Joining together multiple core purposes and values for the sake of the common good. Only when people connect the dots between core intentions can the bigger picture emerge. And only after the complete picture has been assembled in this way can sustainable solutions be co-created. This is why synergy is the only problem-solving strategy capable of creating sustainable solutions. Not compromise, and certainly not coercion.

Society is at a tipping point when it comes to our chosen negotiation strategies. Will we continue to rely on coercion and compromise because they are familiar to us, no matter how inadequate they are as 21st century problem-solving strategies? Or will be start using a less familiar but far more effective negotiation strategy? It is time we started depending on synergy as our first-choice problem-solving strategy.

No matter how much more familiar you might be with coercion and compromise, synergy is very learnable as a solution-creation method and negotiation strategy. Start developing your synergy skills today.


Dr. David Gruder, PhD, author of the 6-award-winning book “The New IQ: How Integrity Intelligence Serves You, Your Relationships & Our World”, has taught synergy skills to everyone from couples to World Trade Organization ambassadors. In addition to The New IQ get his step-by-step guide for developing the healthy boundaries that make synergy possible: the downloadable NICE™ Boundaries Home Study Course. Also be sure to read his free article, Three Guidelines for Successful Analysis & Problem-Solving.

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