The Psychology of Compromise – 6 Steps to do it right

Compromise is one thing I hate to engage in. Chances are, so do you. Sure, you may be able to get around to compromising when it comes to choosing pizza toppings (unless it’s pineapples. I mean come on people, pineapple? Really?), but any more than that can be a real challenge.

Compromise is hard

Why is it so hard? Simply put, because it means you aren’t getting everything you want. I know, it sounds awful but you know it to be true. Well hey, self-awareness is the first step, right? So here’s the thing; the issue here is that we are a selfish species; it was the selfish homo sapien that survived to pass on his genes.

Survival was what dictated human behaviour to an incredible extent and the self-serving trait aided the likelihood of one’s continued existence. So the whole ‘fight or flight’ thing was never about ‘hey, check that your family is okay before you run away from that lion’. No, it’s just run. Although if you picked fight, you might want to examine your ancestors with a closer look…#just saying.

Today, however, survival isn’t really what our struggle is about. The struggle revolves around the pursuit of a greater quality of life which requires the very opposite; compromise. We were pre-programmed to implement egotistical actions to achieve survival only to now live in a society that denotes the very notion.


We are still trying to reprogram our fundamentals which is partly why it is such a difficult skill to learn, it is at odds with our ancestral viewpoints, it is our comfort zone. This is actually a great thing, of course, if we did everything biology tells us to do, we’d be uncivilised. Many social advances we make often goes against biology, so try not to diss the concept of compromise too much.

You know what group of people rarely compromise? Babies. Obviously. Sharing is a form of compromise that is however hammered in soon thereafter so we can nurture empathy – the only feeling that sets us apart from the rest of the animal planet.


It is when you are playing with a toy, another kid wants to play with it too and to your outrage, your mum takes it away from you only to pass it to the other kid while lecturing you about the importance of sharing i.e. compromise. You didn’t like it then and you don’t like it now. While we are now better at hiding our annoyance today, because we are trying very hard not to have a temper tantrum, we still do not enjoy the prospect of letting go of some of our desires, but at the very least, we start to understand the necessity of it.

A scale

So here are a few things to keep in mind when you are on the verge of compromise:

1) 50/50. A compromise is basically the act of meeting someone halfway. If the other party is perfectly capable of doing the same but is choosing not to, it is not a compromise. It’s a sacrifice. Don’t do it.

2) Don’t do it for the wrong reasons.  Do not compromise simply to avoid conflict; this will lead to long-term tension and grudge-holding. Avoidance should not fuel your decisions. Take the long route and resolve it (I know, it’s long).

3) Compromise only if you know that it is the right thing to do, whether you enjoy it or not (because chances are, you won’t). This means you aren’t compromising on the one thing you should never compromise; your values. If your values entail notions of logic and honesty then your path is clear.

4) Understand and remind yourself of the necessity for it; Compromising essentially puts your needs on the same front as the other. It is the acceptance that you are on the same playing field; equal, so hauling your ass ahead is not only selfish but is fundamentally at odds with your ethics.

5) Listen.  An effective compromise can only come from meeting all party’s demands equally and the first step of processing what those are and how to do so fairly takes proper communication, 50% of which is listening.

6) Make it clear. Do not compromise in hopes that the other party will do the same. Verbalise your expectations and clarify your actions. There are no mind readers.

We do it

We don’t like it but we do it. It has now become a fundamental concept to ensure healthy and fair relationships. The good thing about compromise, however, is it allows you to self-analyse, to take a step back and observe. It pushes you into action if things aren’t how they ought to be and if they are, it allows you to appreciate. Just remember, in order to do it properly, you need some self-worth and so these go hand in hand. It’s one of the reasons why your friends are able to pick up the mistakes you are making in your relationship but they can’t in turn process theirs just as accurately. So go ahead, you do it for them…or they can learn…*cough* by you sharing this article.

It’s like paying taxes; of course, we’d rather not. You feel a tinge of annoyance whenever you see the deducted sum on your payslip but you also realise it is a must. It has a function. That function is the smooth runnings of the society you live in. It’s worth it.

10 thoughts on “The Psychology of Compromise – 6 Steps to do it right

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  1. We were pre-programmed to implement egotistical actions to achieve survival only to now live in a society that denotes the very notion 👍🏼👍🏼
    Very good read!

  2. I like this post despite the hate on pineapples (aggressively shoves pineapple pizza in my mouth) XD
    You made some really good points, especially #2. I do that a lot because I’m remarkably spineless. Thanks for the advice; I’ll keep it at the front of my mind for future reference 🙂

    1. Haha that gave me a great visual image there – cheers for that. I’m sorry, but if you actually eat pineapples on pizza (and I quote a meme) “I hope you like pineapple slices on your children’s graves because you’re weak, your bloodline is weak, and you will not survive the winter”. 🌚

      You don’t seem spineless to me, I mean you did just aggressively devour pineapple pizza to make a point 😁 Seriously though, thank you for reading and glad you got something out of it!

  3. Great post! Have you read anything on emotional intelligence? I read Daniel Goleman’s book on it and that sparked my fascination with this whole “fighting/using our natural instincts to win at life” thing you touched on.

    1. Thank you, and no I haven’t! I studied psychology for two years where a lot of ancestral traits were discussed. Those have a lot to do with phobias and these sort of rational fears. Really interesting topic, I agree.

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