Agree to Disagree: Compromise To Get, Not Regret

Do you ever have to agree to disagree at work?

I’ve worked most of my career in associations and non-profits. This means I get to agree to disagree quite a bit, whether with co-workers, managers, contractors, board of directors, donors, or members. The very definition of an association is a group of individuals who enter into an agreement to accomplish a purpose, and some associations encourage you to remember this definition of group “togetherness” more than others. It’s neither good nor bad, unless it starts to get in the way of progress or forward movement around changes that need to happen.

From, compromise is described in the Mouton-Blake Managerial Grid as being a win and lose agreement in which both parties get something of what they want but not all of what they want. It’s normal in an any environment where two or more people have to come to a consensus on something. However, sometimes, compromise (or the residual feelings that linger when you just can’t let it go that you had to compromise) can end up tainting decisions or actions you’re trying to make long term.

I encountered a few things this week that reminded me a saying I heard many years ago, you want to compromise to get, not regret. I tried to remind myself of three key points (with a little help from my ongoing Netflix Gilmore Girls binge) that would help me focus on what I was trying to overall and not submarine my long term objectives:

1) Regret is passing and the real regret is sometimes hard to see

Gilmore Girls Life Lessons


What are you really regretting? The agree to disagree loss or the fact that you lost the bigger thing you were after?

You can regret things all day long, but as soon as the little or big emotional tug you felt passes, you’re still in the same position of not having likely what you set out to get, sometimes in a worse position if you let the regret color your reaction to that particular instance that incurred the regret.

In the heat of the moment, it’s sometimes hard to remember that everyone has regrets, but it’s the person who has the perseverance to see past the regrets to the next two or three chess plays that succeeds in negotiation and compromise. Sun Tzu’s saying of that it’s sometimes better to lose the battle to win the war is important to keep in mind as you encounter setbacks.

2) Winning isn’t everything

Gilmore Girls


Everyone likes to win. Most everyone likes to be right and say sorry not sorry a la Taylor Swift. But if you make winning every time your goal, you will likely never get to your long time goal or your ultimate get, and if you’re not operating from a position of considerable power/authority, you’ll likely lose more than you’ll gain. Before you enter into any conversation (this includes those emails you sometimes answer in the grocery line without really thinking of what it could mean for the big picture or my personal favorite, the ones you pop off because so and so is being a great big pain in the ass), and especially if it’s with a player that can affect great change or disruption for the world you live, work, and play in, figure out if it’s worth it to snap off that snarky remark. Even when they’re being snarky. Because….

3) Some people are just like that, bless their hearts

Paris is just like that

img via

My mother calls this “rising above”. No matter what the other person chooses to do or act like based on how you act during your agree to disagree, you’re better than that. No seriously, you are. And you’re not going to change that other person. That’s who they are and part of what makes working with people so interesting (she says drolly).

On that note, though, don’t be cynical but do be realistic, because business isn’t personal and in a nonprofit and/or association world, it’s tough to keep the blurred lines of friends and members clear. We choose to form relationships with our community of people to work towards a common goal, but people are people and perceptions of “common goal” can get a little murky as you trudge the long path.

Figure out very clearly what your line is around working or personal or a blended version relationship looks like so that you’re prepared when/if the people you “work” with start pushing buttons to get what they want. And remember when in doubt, the south provided you with a perfect vocabulary to deal with people who are just like that.

I’m looking for resources and articles around how to better agree to disagree, whether an instance you’ve had with a client or co-worker or a process you’ve used to success. Comment with links below if you have any!

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