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When is Compromise a Good Thing?

tumblr_mqwydzRTO31qz6f9yo1_500How sick are you of hearing that you’re single because you don’t like to compromise? Most people I know, regardless of marital status, enjoy getting their own way. So let’s set the record straight. Tell me the last time you compromised and felt good about it.


11 comments for “When is Compromise a Good Thing?”

  1. RS says:

    Hmmm. I think I have to disagree with Steve on this one, if the disagreement of a lowly commoner with an entrepreneurial titan who revolutionized the way we use media holds any water. I think “Don’t Compromise” is a pretty risky mantra for life unless it is given a lot of qualification. Being a responsible, human adult is largely about compromise. Infants are little screaming egos who only know their own needs and assume the universe revolves around them until hard experience begins to teach them otherwise. And I think that growing up is that gradual process by which we learn that we are not the center of the universe and we slowly learn how to balance our own needs with those of others, to love others as ourselves and our selves as we love others. That is the work of a lifetime, of course, and few of us master that task in the too short years we have, but I think it is those who progress the farthest down that path that live the happiest lives. I think American culture in particular idolizes the alpha person who charges into the world and turns it on its head. They are powerful and sexy and awe inspiring. But I wonder if we are wise to want that too strongly ourselves. Because, of course, if everybody approached the world with a “No Compromise – it’s my way or the highway!” attitude, the world would be in chaos. For all that we idolize competitive spirit, I think it is far more cooperation that allows us to live harmoniously with each other. So my initial reaction to having Steve Jobs tell me I should never compromise is, perhaps, to take him at his word at least in this – I will refuse to compromise my hesitation about never compromising!

    Of course, understood properly, there is also some wisdom in Steve’s advice. I would just put it differently. I prefer the old “have the courage of your convictions” to “Don’t Compromise.” They are not exactly the same. I may “compromise” in some ways to live in peace with you without surrendering the integrity of my convictions or my path.

    I know this was raised in the context of its relationship to mating, but even here I question the value of the advice. I have also been told from time to time that I am still single because “I am too picky.” I suppose most of us that have remained single well into adulthood have heard that. But, personally, I don’t think it is quite right. I think I may have thought that when I was younger, that I was still single because I was “not compromising.” Now, I am not so sure. Couching it in those terms makes it seem like the choice of a life mate is a highly rational process, and I think we humans are a lot less rational (especially when it comes to the biggest decisions of our lives like choosing a mate, having children, etc) than we like to think. I suspect that the big decisions of our lives are usually not made logically or rationally but rather we are swept along by the tidal force of passions that are deeply embedded within us. I have often asked myself the question, “why are you still single?” I would not answer that today by saying, “because I have not wanted to compromise.” I suspect the most honest answer is that it is probably because, perhaps for reasons I don’t clearly understand myself, I simply have not really wanted to get married. To anyone. At least so far. If Angelina Jolie came to me, single and available, with no children, and begged me to marry her so we could spend the rest of our lives alternately making love, reading, traveling, and eating cookies in bed – I am not entirely sure that I would take her up on it.

    Oh, who am I kidding. Pass the Oreos, Angie, and “let me sleep on it, baby baby, let me sleep on it. Let me sleep on it, I’ll give you an answer in the morning. . . .”

    By contrast, I think of my best friend. He had been in a very unhappy marriage for a long time and eventually divorced. In a little over a year he was married again, this time to a woman who was a much better match for him, and they have been living happily together for many years now. He sometimes tells me a little wistfully that he fantasizes about being free to be a hobo and travel the world, but I don’t think that is what he really wants in his heart of hearts. I think he is a man who wants and needs to be married and his passions naturally led him to a woman he could need and who needed him. It “just happened” if you want to put it in those terms. I never had the impression that the question of whether he was “compromising” or not ever entered his mind. Life just happened, graciously, and he received it. C.S. Lewis once wrote something to the effect that “each heart finds what it most truly seeks.” And while that can probably not be taken 100% literally, I suspect there is a fair amount of truth to it. My passions have thus far led me in a different direction. Where they will lead tomorrow, who can say?

    Sorry for the tl;dr response. I just found the topic very interesting. . .

    • Lola says:

      RS – really great stuff. Thanks for sharing your insight.

    • wendy says:

      In his professional life, I’m glad that Steve Jobs didn’t compromise, because we’re the beneficiaries of his beautiful and functional products. But he sounds like a horrible person to be around. I agree, RS, that compromise is essential. BTW, my intention for this post was not just about relationships and mating. So thanks for taking the time to write about the topic with such intelligence and grace.

  2. winegoddesstx says:

    Well said RS.
    Wendy – I compromise on a regular basis when managing and directing a charitable organization. It’s the only way to move the group forward and accomplish our bigger organizational goals. I compromise all the time with my business associates on the methods and benchmark targets for meeting our sales goals.
    I think I compromised myself while involved in an inappropriate relationship for many years and that may have prevented other relationships from happening.
    Achieving compromise to move forward is positive. Compromise has both positive and negative definitions based on context- neither of them is really related to being too selective or too “too picky.”

    • wendy says:

      The distinction you’re making between compromising to accomplish goals and “compromising yourself” is interesting.

  3. Beth O'Donnell says:

    Does agreeing to disagree count?

  4. Len says:

    Congress. ‘Nuff said?

  5. Latarsha says:

    Perhaps I’m strange but I welcome the chance to compromise, in the context of a relationship that is. I like to say that I’m CEO of Latarsha Inc. so Steve Jobs advice is sort of how running the operation of me typically works but it only works because I’m alone. I would like to be seeing someone where I had to consider another perspective or viewpoint because I know it makes for a richer experience.

    I told a man I was interested in once about my desire to go to Puerto Rico this fall. He’d been before but he’s more of an off-the-grid person than I am and asked if I liked the outdoors, skiing, hiking, etc. I said no, I’m kind of an indoor girl, museums, shopping, etc. I joked that the outdoors was merely the space between indoors and a car. He said “You know, if you and I were to vacation together and I did indoor stuff with you, you might have fun doing outdoor stuff with me.” It sounded so simple: if you go outside with me, I’ll go indoors with you. Regrettably the interest didn’t take off but I always think of that whenever I think of “compromise” comes up.

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