Compromise and Collaboration: Strategies to Resolve Conflict

Updated on January 22, 2018
Blake Flannery profile image

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

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

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

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 provides.

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. A 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 conflict 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. 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

What is the most important reason to collaborate with someone?

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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

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    • Blake Flannery profile imageAUTHOR

      Blake Flannery 

      8 years ago from United States


      I think we'll have to agree to disagree about our opinions of whether agreeing to disagree is a good idea. Just kidding.

      I think "agree to disagree" is a stupid cliché to use for little disagreements such as if you were talking about which type of ice cream is best or what the coolest animal in the world is. Those are great things to "agree to disagree" about. Many actual conflicts are much more difficult and complicated and require an actual resolution and cannot be left in limbo.

      For example, when two parents who have differing values and philosophies are determining whether or not to spank their child, then they have to come to some solution through compromise or even collaborating for a creative solution. Otherwise, the one that is spanking will be considered an abusive parent by the one who doesn't spank, and the one who doesn't spank will be considered soft by the one who does.

      Bottom line... if something is easy enough to "agree to disagree" about then it wasn't a serious conflict or there was an easy solution in the fist place.

    • mcleodgi profile image

      Ginny McLeod 

      8 years ago from Overland Park

      I think you're on target for the most part. Though I'm not sure I completely agree with the very first part of the article, that agreeing to disagree means giving up. We can't control how other people think or feel, only how we think and feel. I think that agreeing to disagree actually means accepting and acknowledging the fact that you and the other person (or people) in question just simply don't agree on that one little aspect and let it go. It does not mean giving up the relationship altogether. Sometimes, if we can't let something go like that, it can actually lead to health problems.


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