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Compromising when it hurts

Political season is in full bloom.  If this one doesn’t make you scratch your head and wonder about what is going on with people, I would be surprised.

Factions abound, opinions are based on social media leaks and we all know how dependable they are.  For some reason people seem to be less in the mood to compromise than ever.  In fact, when you look at the quote by Robert Green Ingersoll many of use smile and say to ourselves; "that is the way my life should be."

robert green ingersoil

Heroism in its place - So, for all of you scratching your head like I am, let me offer a different perspective. I believe that the republic in which we live was built upon the foundation of compromise.  I know this because it is what we have been doing for a very long time and was in the early design of our constitution. We have compromised to win long courageous battles against racial, religious, gender, and age bias. We are legendary for looking to the rule of law and trying to negotiate difficult conflicts not only at home but around the planet. Ah, but the spirit of the law wins out in the end most of the time. The spirit is the compromise part. In a world full of people writing contracts, and reading the fine print, it is still the handshake that makes the relationships work. 

We are not only good at this as a nation, we are pretty good at home. We couldn't stay married or raise children without compromise. In fact, when we use conflict style in workshops here at Priority Learning, compromise is always high on people’s list of preferred styles. Does that mean we are not being heroic?  Ironically, compromise might be the most heroic thing we can do.

Cautionary note - Maybe a cautionary note about what happens when we don’t use compromise is in order. Our first uncompromising act as a nation happened when we resisted the tyranny of Britain.  That one worked out but only after years of struggle, hardship, loss of life and personal sacrifice. Ok, that uncompromising approach worked however...if Britain had been a little more willing to compromise, we might be flying the union jack instead of the stars and stripes. Then, we decided at some point to believe that states' rights and having slaves was more than many of our citizens were willing to compromise on and, yes, we endured a civil war. 620,000 souls later, we found an answer in beating the stuffing out of our neighbors. The beatings ended the war, but did it really end the conflict? You can still find pockets of hate festering in the south. 

How about the uncompromising approach of ISIS, aka, radical Islam? They are standing up for what they believe. Ok, ok, I’m sure that those of you reading this article can site cases when being uncompromising saved lives and in some cases created a better world. Maybe a better question to ask is, what can we do? 

Finding balance - Back in 1995 when Lorraine and I started this business, it seemed that we had to make compromise after compromise to be successful. We had no real track record for success and no one wanted an untested entity working their first assignments with their people and, in hindsight, who could blame them? We had to compromise and take smaller assignments to prove ourselves over and over and over. In time, of course, people build trust, built a body of work and, presto! Well, not exactly. Each time we get a new client these days, it seems we need to begin again. I suspect that compromise will always be part of the business and, as painful as it can be, somewhere deep inside I know it is good for us. On the other side of compromise is where we have been able to pin some important values, our values. We will never take money for work we cannot do excellently.  We will never do work that will hurt people or cause them to lose their jobs, and we will not simply take work that is asked for but not applied by leadership.  Sound a little uncompromising?  Finding the balance is always about who will or won’t be hurt by our uncompromising ways.

So, now for the editorial part of the article.  As people talk to me it is clear that a big body of people are digging in and saying things like, “I will write in my candidate” or, even worse, “I will simply not vote.”    In a million years I would never tell people how to vote or who to vote for.  You are getting inundated with that foolishness every day in every way.  Your vote is a private citizen issue for each of us to ponder in November and there is a reason that voting booths have curtains.  That said, it might be good to remind you of what happens if you write in your candidate or don’t vote.  For instance, if you were thinking of writing me in for president, (stop chuckling) please don’t waste your vote.  You say you are voting your conscience?  Again, don’t waste it on me.  Find a candidate on the ticket closest to your beliefs and vote for him or her.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) for you I am not on the ticket and a vote for me is wasted.

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Ralph Twombly
Priority Learning

In the 20 years since starting Priority Learning, Ralph has facilitated countless learning experiences and has conducted training for thousands of managers and leaders. With over 30 years of leadership development and organizational development background and work, Ralph continues to build relationships with client companies all over the U.S.



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