Reaching a true compromise is never easy. It requires us to think beyond our own interests and consider others' feelings, intentions, and goals. The next time you need to negotiate a compromise –– with your child, your ex, or anyone else –– use the following steps:
- Consider the other person's point of view. Ask yourself what they really want and how they probably feel about the issue. The simple act of putting yourself in their shoes will help to reduce tension and help you maintain an open mind.
- Recognize your limitations. Until you hear from the other person directly, your thoughts on the issue are mere speculation. You may be 100% right, or you may be wrong. Imagining how the other person feels will help you prepare for the conversation, but it's important to acknowledge that your perspective is incomplete until you have the opportunity to speak with him or her directly.
- Schedule a time to talk about it. It may be tempting to force the other person to talk when you want, or to try and resolve the issue over email or text messages. But it's important to wait until you can both be fully present, even if that means deferring the conversation for a day or two. If the other person is pushing you to talk before you're ready, or at a time when you can't speak freely, let him or her know that because the conversation is so important to you, you're going to wait until you can give your full attention to the issue at hand.
- Set a positive tone. When you do sit down to talk, start the conversation by letting the other person know that you have some understanding of how they feel, but that you're there because you want to know more. This demonstrates your open mind and will help defuse the other person's anger so that you can have a productive conversation.
- Ask open-ended questions. Avoid basing the entire conversation on assumptions. Instead, ask direct questions and show a genuine interest in learning more.
- Ask "Are you willing to hear my point of view?" The mere act of "asking" permission to share your perspective helps the other person concentrate more fully on what you're saying. And if they flat-out say no (they're not willing to hear your point of view), then you'll know that the rest of the conversation needs to be deferred until the two of you are equally willing to hear what the other has to say.
- Affirm your collective purpose. Find something you have in common to affirm. For example, you might say "We both want the kids to feel secure and loved" to your ex, or "I want you to feel part of the group at school, too," to your child.
- Suggest a compromise. Once you've each had the opportunity to hear what the other person has to say, go ahead and suggest a solution. Remember, though, that real compromise means that both parties give a little. It's not a compromise if you get what you want, and the other person gets nothing.
- Work on reaching a solution together. It may take several suggestions, or even multiple conversations, to reach a compromise you're both willing to agree to. But recognize that that work is worth the effort, because reaching a compromise builds trust and makes the next hurdle you face together that much easier to manage.
Finally, remember that relationships take work –– whether that's your co-parenting relationship or your relationship with your child. Learning how to negotiate a compromise together can help you gain the other person's cooperation –– and even their respect –– without sacrificing your integrity or authority.