Why It’s So Hard to Compromise

Compromise is a terrific idea that feels lousy. It feels like giving in, even while it creates a pathway to success. Compromise feels so bad because when we compromise, we deliberately give up on a hope or a dream.

Each person carries within an image, usually unspoken, of how the world should be this moment and the next. Even if we can’t describe it in detail. For example, we want the job to be satisfying and pay well. We want relationships to be fulfilling and without conflict. We want our teams to win their games and our children to excel at everything they do.

When we compromise, we say to ourselves, “I accept that my world will not be the way I want it.” That can’t feel good. Even if we know it’s for a greater purpose, we can’t help feeling the loss.

Our wiser minds understand that compromise may be the best way to get things done. Our emotions focus instead on what we have to give up instead of the worthwhile result that comes out of it.

In the end, decisions reached by compromise are generally better. Compromises pull together the best parts of conflicting viewpoints and yield solutions greater than any one view would have generated. Recognizing this is part of being an adult.

Republicans and Democrats in Washington, now fighting about the U.S. budget, should make the good of the country more important than their own ideology, and learn to compromise.