Human beings are born solitary, but everywhere they are in chains - daisy chains - of interactivity. Social actions are makeshift forms, often courageous, sometimes ridiculous, always strange. And in a way, every social action is a negotiation, a compromise between ’his,’ ’her’ or ’their’ wish and yours.
Several weeks ago, I was talking with my friend Alan about his family’s vacation plan for this upcoming summer.
He went on to explain to me that his older, college-aged, daughter was planning to further her studies in London in a study-abroad program this summer and that his younger daughter was planning to go to space camp in Huntsville, Alabama for 3 weeks in July.
For the first time in more than two decades, his wife Jackie and he were planning on going on a two-week vacation together alone... or in other words... without kids!
"So where are you guys planning on going?", I asked him.
"We’re going to Hawaii where we can both lounge around the pool relaxing, walk along the beach, and I can play a little golf while Jackie gets a massage", he replied.
"Sounds like a nice second-honeymoon", I said before the conversation turned to another subject.
This past weekend, I happened to see Alan again after some pleasantries, I asked him how their travel plans to Hawaii were coming along.
At that point Alan started to shake his head...
"We’re not going..."
"What!... I thought it was all set... what happened?"
"Well... it turns out that my dream vacation to Hawaii wasn’t exactly what Jackie had in mind at all... she told me, in no uncertain terms mind you, that Hawaii in July, where it was stifling hot, muggy, and often rained every day was literally and figuratively, the farthest place from where she really wanted to go... Paris."
Now I was stunned...
"Well... France in general... she wanted to start in Paris and then head to the wine-region countryside of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne... "
"That’s a pretty ambitious schedule for a relaxing vacation", I commented having been to all those places at one time or another.
"She also wanted to stop in London to visit our daughter..."
"Really?... wasn’t the original idea to escape from the girls for a couple of weeks?"
"Yeah... so that’s when I put my foot down", Alan said in a resolved voice.
"So no London?"
"No London... no Paris... no France... I have no desire whatsoever to trek around Europe, in high-season mind you, to hang-out in a bunch of tourist traps".
"So did you and Jackie just resign yourselves to staying home, pretending to be away for 2-weeks?"
"No... but we did actually talk about it for a few seconds until we both realized that we’d just end up doing work around the house... never really relaxing..."
"Okay... I’ll bite... where are you guys going?... and please don’t tell me that you both are going on separate vacations..."
Alan gave me a fabricated laugh, "no... after a long discussion where we both talked... and more importantly listened... we reached a consensus...
We both decided to rent a beach house about 200 miles north of San Francisco... I say beach house... but there isn’t really any beach... just rocks... and the house is about a 2-hour drive to the Sonoma Valley wine region and not too far from a golf course... the house doesn’t have a pool since the weather is somewhat chilly... but it does have a hot tub".
"The way I look at it Jimmy, in a few more years, our youngest will be away at college, so Jackie and I will have plenty of time to visit Hawaii and France one day... "
Although I soon parted way with Alan, I couldn’t stop thinking about his dilemma on so many levels.
The first thought was obvious; after more than 20-years of marriage, how could they not know what each other’s dream vacation was? Why were they so far off in their thoughts?
That initial thought led me into a more profound rationalization... when two parties compromise... no one really gets what they want... it’s just a negotiation to select something for ourselves that is "less bad".
Alan really wanted to go to Hawaii... Jackie really wanted to go to Paris... so instead... they are both going somewhere that they both don’t necessarily want to go... but it works to fill the needs of each other.
Had I been the mediator between Alan and Jackie on this impasse, I more than likely would have suggested a "trade-off" rather than a compromise in this situation.
So what’s the difference between a trade-off and a compromise?
The idea of a compromise negotiation typically means that two parties along opposite ends of a spectrum, attempt to find some conciliatory middle-ground in which to agree. This middle-ground guarantees that neither party will actually get what they want.
This type of negotiation often means that in order to get to a more favorable position, it is best to start from a more extreme position than the other party as to end up closer to what you really want in the first place... but in the end... each party is required to give something up...
As an alternative to the compromise, there is the trade-off. The idea of the trade-off is that one party gets everything that they want the first time... and that the other party gets everything they want the following time.
This type of negotiation predetermines that there will be two separate events... in this case... two different vacations... one to Hawaii and one to Paris.
Now in the case of Alan and Jackie, it certainly wouldn’t have killed Alan to go to France. It’s beautiful in the summertime! More than likely, if they had gone there, they would have both had a fantastic vacation creating memories to last a lifetime.
Conversely, after a few days of unwinding under the palm trees around the pool, with romantic walks along the beach and quiet dinners, Jackie most likely would have tried to figure out how to extend the vacation indefinitely.
What allows the idea of compromise and trade-offs work is trust and reaching a consensus with one another.
Trust by both parties that the other person is being heard...
That their needs are being met...
That they know that when their turn comes... there will be someone there to walk along side them...
Trust is compassion...
Trust is listening...
Trust is being present...
It’s only when we truly listen to we hear what someone else is trying to tell us... what they fear... what they wish for... what keeps them alive...
The key to Alan and Jackie’s long marriage has less to do with the ability to compromise... and a lot more to do with the sustained trust that they both enjoy.
I am certain that they will have a great time this summer... as it’s not the place... but rather the people that define our lives...
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse, where we always strive for a win-win negotiation with everyone we touch.
Jim Kalb President
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Website - www.optifuse.com
Twitter - @OptiFuse