The Art of Bargaining
As anyone who has ever been in a relationship can tell you, compromise is an important component of the volatile mixture that is love. Flowers, romance and shared interests are all well and good, but the key to lasting relationships lies in maintaining a balance… or so we’re told. The Dr. Phils of the world want us to believe that our willingness to sacrifice our own wants and needs, at least part of the time, makes us better partners in the long run. And that conventionally held wisdom has endured due to the fact that our desire to be perceived as accommodating makes us pliable. But what if the truth is the exact opposite? What if, in order to have a deeper, meaningful relationship with someone, we first need to acquiesce to our own wishes?
My boyfriend doesn’t like sushi. At least he was pretty sure he didn’t until I made him try it a few months ago. To give him credit, he’s from the Midwest and definitely subscribes to the meat and potatoes stereotype, but is willing to try new things every now and then to appease his fancy, city girlfriend. We’ve tried Ethiopian (loved it), Pakistani (can’t get enough of it) and a few other things during the course of our courtship, but sushi had, until recently, became the elusive grail to my quest. After months of resentment over the fact I couldn’t enjoy a nice sushi dinner – one of my favorite meals – with my mate, I decided I’d had enough compromise, took matters into my own hands and made him sushi for dinner one night. I “Americanized” it by leaving out the uncooked fish part, but, hey, what do you know? He enjoyed it. Eventually, after less than gentle prodding, he graduated to real sushi. And now we have maki, together, on the regular, and we’re both happy.
When the stakes are small, like getting to eat what you want, it’s easier to compromise. But eventually, those little compromises add up. And the sum of all those compromised parts tends to be a much bigger issue than who ends up picking the restaurant at which you’ll be eating. These stored resentments, the times we less than gracefully acquiesce – these are the textbook examples of compromise, but they’re not helping us in the long run, they’re hindering honest communication. When we bow to another’s wishes, we place our own wishes on hold and tend to shrug off the small conflicts that continually surround any compromise. Because a compromise essentially means one person will be happy, while the other will not. How could that possibly be the basis for a good relationship?
I propose we get rid of the enduring, sanctimonious compromise altogether. Instead, let’s call a spade a spade, and acknowledge what this should really be – a bargain. If we follow the rules for true bargaining, both parties should walk away feeling equally victorious or defeated. There is no imbalance in a correctly negotiated bargain, because you’re either both getting what you want, or both taking a hit. Instead of grudgingly attending that crappy electronica show at which your presence has been requested, say yes, joyfully. And then say you’ll go, and be all kinds of jovial about it, IF you’re partner is willing to attend the Renaissance Fair you’ve been trying to take them to for the last five years. Seriously, who doesn’t love a good turkey leg every now and then?
Compromise is for sissies. And for people who don’t have enough faith in themselves or their relationships to say what they really want. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t try to make your partner happy by accommodating their desires – making your partner happy should bring you joy too. But if your accommodation is only coming about because you don’t want your significant other to think you’re selfish, think again. Be selfish. Because a compromise made out of fear of judgement isn’t really a compromise – it’s a capitulation, and that’s another column entirely.
Image from: http://www.wetfeet.com/advice-tools/salary-benefits/how-to-build-bargaining-power-to-increase-your-pay