Skip to main content

Compromise and Collaboration: Strategies to Resolve Conflict

Blake has worked in the mental health field since 2002 educating and inspiring hope on the journey toward recovery.

Strategies for Conflict Resolution in Relationships

Strategies for Conflict Resolution in Relationships

Collaborate or Compromise to Resolve Conflict

Compromise and collaboration are conflict resolution techniques. Both are goal-oriented strategies instead of tactics oriented around a personal agenda. Using these two strategies can resolve conflict and improve relationships. People involved can move forward from conflicts and gain a history of successful interactions.

Learning to build habits of working with others instead of antagonistically can revolutionize personal and professional relationships. The stress of conflict with others can be reduced and lead to more enjoyable interactions with others.

Characteristics of Compromise and Collaboration

These are some of the characteristics of compromise and collaboration. Each conflict resolution technique is valuable in specific situations.



Fast, Simple, Fair, Easy

Creative, Cooperative, Consensus-building


Leaves parties partially satisfied. Both parties must be flexible. Does not work with complex conflicts.

Takes a lot of time. All parties must be active and contribute.

Who to use it with


Only with people who have a personal stake and a working relationship

Steps to Resolve Conflict

In a conflict situation, a simple disagreement can easily create complex adversaries out of people. Follow these steps to identify the problem and work toward solving it. Work to understand each other's goals, values, and beliefs first.

Here are steps to take when conflict occurs to work toward a resolution:

  1. Identify the conflict. Sometimes the source of conflict is not apparent. Make sure you understand the positions of both parties involved by allowing time to talk about what each person wants. Ask questions and take turns answering.
  2. Identify who is involved in the conflict. Don't include others who do not need to be involved, but make sure everyone who needs to is included. The only exception is to include an unbiased mediator when needed.
  3. Brainstorm possible solutions. Make a simple list of all the ideas everyone can identify. Take time and write each down together. Keep from making any judgments about any of the ideas until everyone has had a chance to give input.
  4. Rank the solutions in order of preference. Ranking means putting each solution in order of preference. This can be done together or separately. If solutions are ranked together be careful that no one is pushing the other toward a specific solution in a manipulative way.
  5. Decide on a solution. Make a decision that satisfies everyone involved. This may take some creativity and flexibility. If a resolution is not identified, go back to brainstorming ideas to refine possible solutions. If no new possible solutions can be identified, seek a compromise.
  6. Review your solution. Make sure that the solution everyone has decided is working well. Also, ensure that each person is contributing what part he or she agreed to do.
  7. Compromise if necessary. Negotiate a solution that includes both parties giving up part of what each wants. This should be the most "fair" meeting in the middle possible.

The decision to compromise or collaborate with others can be influenced by several factors, including how much time is available to communicate. Both strategies can happen quickly with enough practice, but compromise can usually be accomplished more quickly.

Don't Give Up on the Relationship

Agree to Never "Agree to Disagree"

A common saying people tend to use when in a conflict is, "Let's agree to disagree." This is fine if you are disagreeing about something that does not matter much, such as the all-time best baseball player. Unfortunately, agreeing to disagree doesn't work in important decisions such as two parents who disagree about spanking their child.

Do not resort to lazy fixes and clichés and give up on tough issues with others. When people agree to disagree they have missed an opportunity for growth in the relationship that compromise and collaboration provide.

Why Compromise or Collaborate?

Artists collaborate on projects producing some of their greatest works. Examples include Lennon and McCartney, Santana and everyone, peanut butter and jelly. The goal of collaboration is to add something valuable from each person. Collaboration happens when something bigger than each person has to offer separately is created. On the other hand, compromise usually ends with dividing something, being flexible, or taking turns. Compromise is very useful in putting the relationship ahead of the issue when time is limited.

This for That

Compromise is about giving up something in order to get someone else to give something up.

Compromise is about giving up something in order to get someone else to give something up.

What Is a Compromise?

Compromise is a great tool for solving short-term conflicts with others, but let's examine the result of compromise on the relationship. When two or more people compromise they are saying that they don't agree on their goals, values, or beliefs. Furthermore, each person must be willing to "give" a little to get what they want. You can do this with a car salesman. "I'll take off 500 bucks if you buy now and pay cash." You don't need a close relationship to compromise, only an understanding of what the other person wants.

Characteristics of a Compromise

  • Parties involved must each give up a little of what they want.
  • Compromising individuals do not need to share values, beliefs, or goals. They do not need to have a close relationship.
  • Compromise can be used quickly, but each person must communicate what is most important in the situation.
  • Compromising involves identifying a solution that meets in the "middle"

What Is Collaboration?

Collaboration occurs between people with common goals, values, or beliefs. It is all about what each person can contribute to help in a larger effort. Collaboration is team-oriented. Collaboration is all about a good working relationship that appreciated differences in others. Webster’s online definition for collaboration is: “to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.”

A good example of collaboration is what musical artists do. One artist may be great at playing guitar hooks and solos, but he may also be a lousy songwriter and singer. Then another artist may have the opposite qualities creating a great opportunity for collaboration. Each person may differ in abilities and strengths, but they can work collaboratively to create an amazing song that many people will enjoy.

Four guidelines to use when collaborating:

  • Collaboration usually takes longer than compromising: Collaboration takes an understanding of each person's strengths and interests that usually go beyond what is involved in the conflict.
  • Everyone must be included: Collaboration must take into account all views from those involved in the decision. Even if you think grandma is wise, leave her out unless she is directly involved. Make a list of those involved and get them involved.
  • Appreciate differences: Take advantage of diversity and see differences as an asset. This comes down to attitude and perspective. If you must, you can look at working with others as a way to achieve personal growth.
  • No one gives up, but everyone gives input: Before making decisions, give each person a chance to give input. Sometimes creative ideas come from these processes, so think outside the box. Try to avoid voting or creating a compromise at this point, which tends to make some feel left out. Use the input from all sources to come up with possible solutions, and stay flexible. Don’t feel pressured to make a quick decision.
  • Ensure that everyone is satisfied: Decide on a solution that everyone approves of. Revise and modify solutions until everyone is 100% happy. This creates a victory in the history of the relationship of those involved and encourages future collaboration. Those involved in the conflict will be more motivated to support the decision and act accordingly when decisions are made collaboratively.

What if Collaboration fails?

Compromise if necessary. Under tough circumstances, time or physical constraints may not allow for collaboration. Moving on may be more important in these situations, so use compromise as a last resort.

Reasons to Collaborate

Compromise and Collaboration May Not Always Work

If you are dealing with a person who has power over you such as a parent, judge, police officer, coach, teacher, or boss, then compromise may not be possible. The other person must be willing to let you share your perspective.

Unfortunately these situations are common. Use the collaboration and compromise at your discretion under circumstances of balanced power or in situations where you have more control and are willing to allow the other party to share that control.

Compromise and Collaboration Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Which one of these is an example of a compromise when one person wants a burger for dinner and the other wants a taco?
    • "You always get what you want. WE'RE HAVING TACOS, DARN IT!"
    • "Let's wrap burgers in a tortilla to make something new."
    • "We'll have burgers tonight and tacos tomorrow for lunch."
  2. Which is an example of collaboration when one person wants to play frisbee and other wants to play football?
    • "Football is a stupid game!"
    • "Let's play ultimate frisbee."
    • "I'm not playing anything with you if you won't play what I want."

Answer Key

  1. "We'll have burgers tonight and tacos tomorrow for lunch."
  2. "Let's play ultimate frisbee."