Lorie Shaull



Meet in the Middle: Compromise

It is disturbing that the willingness to compromise has become associated with disavowing one’s values and principles or of being accused of being so indifferent to those values that we are willing to ignore them. Society should never expect that of anyone. Compromising is not about winning or losing.

Most of our interactions with others, whether they be relationships with a partner, family members or friends or in the workplace or in politics require us to compromise in order to resolve at least some of our differences and “get along.”

If partners opt to dine out and cannot agree where to dine. Do they stay home? Maybe, and prepare a meal they both enjoy or maybe they’ll flip a coin or maybe they’ll elect to dine out twice that month. I doubt that they would retreat to separate rooms and “pout!”

Maybe you have a job that you really enjoy but it requires your total concentration and you perform best in a quiet environment. The person whose work station is next to yours is a very congenial friendly man, however, he has a habit of either clicking his tongue or humming all day rather loudly which distracts you.

Do you report him to management? Let’s hope not! Perhaps the best way to resolve the issue is suggesting that you and he meet for coffee. You might suggest that the issue is more your problem than his and not suggest that he needs to modify his behavior. That would most likely make him feel defensive, guilty or even angry. Have a sense of humor about your own eccentricity. Maybe you both decide that one of you might relocate? At least, you most likely will not have damaged an otherwise congenial relationship.

Of course, there are those who thrive on “conflict” but they represent the minority. The point is that the vast majority of us practice the “art” of compromising.

Mayors and city and town councils compromise as do governors and state legislators whether Republicans, Democrats or Independents in order to resolve policies and budgets. (Granted, there are a few exceptions.) However, state and local elected officials understand that lack of compromise leads to chaos and creates uncertainty among their constituents and they know that they will hear from them ultimately at the ballot box!

Certainly “gridlock” is not new to our Federal Government. Our Founding Fathers anticipated this and thus established the Supreme Court where laws passed by Congress and signed by the President may be challenged by the opposition party or by individuals as unconstitutional and might be either sustained or overturned.

Over the past twenty years, gridlock and an unwillingness to compromise have become much more pronounced in Washington.

Why? Traditionally, both political parties usually shared common values and expressed common concerns over Foreign Policy matters and resolved their differences usually by arriving at a consensus as to how to deal with these issues. However, during the past two administrations and the current administration, Foreign Policy consensus has been and is more contentious.

Clearly, domestic issues are even more difficult to resolve.

Why? Maybe some of the answers relate to the fact that Americans have gravitated to communities where they find shared values. They work, socialize and send their children to schools with families who share their backgrounds and values. Some refer to this as tribalism but it is understandable. Their Congressional representatives are expected to reflect these values through the policies they support in Congress.

Years ago Minnesota created pie shaped congressional districts. As a consequence, the elected Congressperson’s constituents lived in rural communities, industrial communities and/or urban or suburban communities. A policy that might benefit one group might be unbeneficial to another. Lacking a concrete example, one can only assume that the legislators had to resolve these disparate issues through compromises.

Gerrymandered congressional districts have also contributed to the lack of consensus.

It must be acknowledged that there are some issues like “a woman’s right to choose” or “the death penalty” or maybe even Immigration that will most likely never be fully resolved through compromise. Maybe we need to accept that.

What part does technology play in our discourse and does it hinder or encourage our ability or willingness to compromise? Is technology the behemoth in the room? Has it caused us to become more isolated? Many of us order groceries, clothing, and sundries online and never need to walk into a store to ask help from a clerk or pay at the checkout where we would interact with employees.

Many psychologists and sociologists are encouraging the business community to not only rely on emails but to pick up the phone and call a prospective customer. For instance, you will miss the pause or the hint of confusion or concern in an email but not during a phone conversation.

Don’t rely on one news source. Find ways to Interact with those who you don’t see socially or at church. Reach out!

How we use technology is within our control.

Only the American public can resolve gridlock (to some extent) and encourage and/or demand reasonable compromises from their politicians.