Compromise destroys businesses, crushes deals and destroys lives. It is the idea that I can give up what I want, you can give up what you want, and somehow, we call that win-win.
That is not win-win. That's lose-lose.
So why is compromise so glorified? Why do our parents teach us that to succeed in life, we must learn to compromise?
Because it's easy. It's comfortable.
Compromise is for people who are not willing to put in the effort to find an alternative that's an actual win-win. It's for people who need to save face. It's for people who are afraid to lose.
Chris Voss, a former FBI crisis negotiator illustrates it this way:
"A woman wants her husband to wear black shoes with his suit. But her husband doesn't want to; he prefers brown shoes. So what do they do? They compromise, they meet halfway. And, you guessed it, he wears one black and one brown shoe. Is this the best outcome? No! In fact, that's the worst possible outcome. Either of the two other outcomes -- black or brown -- would be better than the compromise."
So how do you win instead of compromise? As Stephen Covey puts it--look for the third alternative. The third alternative is not compromise. It's a new option. The option that solves problems or creates gains on both sides.
In my 20-plus years as a deal-maker, I have learned that Covey and Voss are right on point. When you meet in the middle, both sides give something up. Both lose. Here's how to win.
1. Make high value trades.
What if I can give you something that is of value to you, but no big deal for me? What if you can give me something that is huge for me, but easy for you? Instead of us both giving up something--meeting in the middle--we both gain something. That's win-win.
2. Get over the idea that there are two sides.
Evict that idea from your mind forever. When you think in terms of two sides, you think in terms of my way, and your way. Then, you compromise or you haggle.
Instead, step back and think - what if there were 10 ways to do this? What if one of them was even better for me than what I originally wanted? Now that you have the right mindset, you can find the wins.
3. Focus on what's important.
What is actually important to your counterpart? What do they want? Can you fulfill that need? Can you do so without sacrificing too much?
What is it that you really want? If you solve your counterpart's problem, or fill their need, can you get what you want?
If the answer is yes, then you have an opportunity to achieve a true win-win, not a compromise. If the answer is no--well, no deal is better than a bad deal.