Questioning Compromises

By — on / Conflict Resolution

Adapted from “The Dangers of Compromise” by Max H. Bazerman in the February 2005 issue of the Negotiation newsletter.

People often wonder if they should constantly monitor their decisions to avoid bias. The answer is no. Social heuristics serve a useful function, allowing our social interactions to run more smoothly. When it comes to minor decisions, go ahead and compromise.

But when your organization is negotiating over important decisions and strategies, you must question the wisdom of compromising and strive to be more cautious, thoughtful, and insightful. The next time you face a serious negotiation, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What should the meeting agenda look like?
  • Are two polar opinions likely to develop, such that only a compromise will save face for all?
  • Would compromise come at the expense of growing the pie through creative trades?
  • Would I be compromising to avoid a tough debate between reasonable alternative proposals?

Leaders often have the opportunity to shape the discussion in their organizations. They can highlight the dangers of compromising to others in their organization and make sure that good ideas are fully debated.


By creating an environment where respect is defined as listening to and considering the ideas of others, not by the willingness to compromise on a deficient middle ground.

At a political level, we tend to believe that the term “bipartisan” describes the behavior of responsible, cooperative politicians who drop their biased concerns in the search for value-creating changes for society. When true bipartisanship occurs, we as citizens should support such innovation.

But bipartisanship can also be a shortcut to lay compromises for those eager to reach any deal at all.

When you download the New Conflict Management: Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies to Avoid Litigation you will learn how wise negotiators extract unexpected value using an indirect approach to conflict management.

Related Article: How Mental Shortcuts Lead to Misjudging

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