Collaboration Vs. Compromise–Which One is Better?

3 Sep

We mediators love to talk about “collaboration” and “compromise,” but what’s the difference between the two? And, moreover, which one is better when you’re in the midst of a conflict?

I read a story recently that illustrated the difference beautifully: Two sisters had one orange, and each of them wanted it. The older sister claimed she should get it because she’s older. The younger sister thought she should get the orange because she’s younger. They decided to split the orange in half, and both were pretty happy at the decision. However, after they parted, the older sister ate the orange and threw away the peel. The younger sister threw away the orange, so she could have the peel to bake a cake. You and I Win We All Are Winners - 3 Way Street Sign

Had they just talked about what each of them needed, they could have fulfilled their needs entirely.

Turns out, this is an example of compromise–each person walks away with their needs partially met, so as to end the conflict. But, wouldn’t collaboration be better? In a collaborative environment, each person finds out what they other needs, and both work together to meet those needs. During the collaborative process, parties may decide to compromise. But, without collaboration, compromise is just two or more parties leaving the conflict with only partially-fulfilled needs.

So, remember the “orange” the next time you’re tempted to compromise without finding out what the other person REALLY wants. Who knows? You both may leave with fulfilled needs.

And, wouldn’t THAT be the best option?


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