Help me adjust my uncompromising attitude
January 29, 2005 10:55 AM   Subscribe

I need help with attitude adjustment. I have trouble making compromises, it is usually all or nothing for me, especially when it is something important. As a result I often hurt the ones I love the most because of this flaw in me. I have tried to find ways to focus on what is more important, the love of the other person over having things my way. I know I cherish the love more, yet I can not seem to make compromises. How do I change this?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
i may be criticisng myself more than you here, but are you sure "all or nothing" is the problem? for me, that was an excuse i used, when in fact i simply wanted to what i was interested in ("important" being a very relative term). that, in turn, made me realise that i didn't have enough free time, which made me rearrange my life so that i have more free time, so i can both enjoy my petty obsessions and spend time with others.

it wasn't a 100% solution, and i'm interested in other replies here, but it helped.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:22 AM on January 29, 2005

What if you make a very specific decision ahead of time to compromise on something that's not a big deal -- make the choice now that you will simply go to the movie your loved one wants to see, for example, rather than insisting on going the movie you want to see. Maybe planning ahead to do it will keep you from getting heated up over it in the actual moment of deciding on which movie to see, and therefore prevent it escalating into a battle of wills. In other words, make the decision right now that the next time your partner/sibling/buddy says "I want to see Sideways" (or whatever), then yes, you're going to see Sideways and not Million Dollar Baby or whatever other movie is your first choice. Period.

Then, observe what feelings are stirred up by letting someone else have their way. Are you feeling angry? Helpless? Resentful? Or are you feeling surprisingly... okay? Maybe the other person really did make a good choice. Maybe it was pleasant not to have started out the evening with a conflict. By starting small, maybe you can figure out what's at the heart of your need to have things your way all the time. Because, as you have noticed, making that kind of demand of everyone else in your life is both hurtful and unrealistic (and -- speaking as someone who has been in a relationship with someone who was also incapable of compromise -- is frankly childish, to boot. A toddler naturally thinks he can have anything he wants. An adult, sooner or later, needs to understand that he can't.) Good luck.
posted by scody at 11:31 AM on January 29, 2005

Consider cognitive therapy or one of its near relatives or self-help books with that orientation of which there are many. This is exactly the kind of thing at which cognitive therapy excels. A good intro is Mind Over Mood.
posted by TimeFactor at 11:31 AM on January 29, 2005

Open your field of vision, realize that beauty is often an outlier, whether this be scenery or a new decision. Consider an holistic approach to being within while not without. Effectiveness in this will translate to the appreciation of others and their choices.

Be more spontaneous; break habits, enjoy new chances. Become able and strong in any path that forks before you. This will allow you to see a decision that you did not choose as one just as well, exciting and useful.
posted by sled at 11:41 AM on January 29, 2005

I do not consider compromise to be a flaw. If you are very clear about those things that are important to you, that clarity will be the main energy you draw on to achieve those important things.

If someone's happiness depends upon your behavior, they are doomed to frustration and anger. While it may be possible for them to get one person to behave exactly as they need for a little while, it will not be possible for them to get everyone to behave thus. Furthermore, if you are the only one they have selected for behavior modification, it will not take long before your own desire for freedom overpowers the relationship.

Andrew Cooke and scody raise good points. For my comments to have merit it is essential that you be very clear about what it is that you really want and why you want it. Out of the search for such clarity you may discover that the real essence of what you are seeking is different than you originally supposed.

My remarks might be construed as promoting selfishness - in fact they are. I have found that whenever someone accuses me of selfishness they are invariably arguing that I should change so as to accommodate their selfish needs. There will always be someone who is delighted to dance with you because their desires beautifully mesh with yours. Trust that you will always find each other and steadfastly hold to your own clear desires.
posted by RMALCOLM at 11:49 AM on January 29, 2005

I know I cherish the love more, yet I can not seem to make compromises. How do I change this?

Well, the hard way is to lose people repeatedly until you're finally willing to work with them. The hard way takes longer and scars you into submission, possibly past the point where you can really feel anything deeply for anyone.

Some people (the young, partiucularly) think of compromising with others as a sign of weakness, akin to "settling" for less, selling yourself out to please others. You're old, you're busted, you've given up and it's time to settle before you die alone. That's one way of looking at it.

Here's another way: the ability to work with other people is a sign of maturity and emotional generosity. Only someone very secure can part with something important, and only the insecure quibble over every little inch of their personal territory. Someone generous and secure who's willing to compromise will grow their social network continuously. Someone too proud to give anything up will slowly whittle it down to nothing. Who's the bigger man?

People who go through life in a defensive posture find themselves with less and less as the years go by. You can't really defend anything forever in this life, and the defensive posture itself keeps new things from entering your life (and can ruin relationships).

Either open up or your game is done.

(I am speaking to myself, here, as well, because I know what you're talking about and what a bitch it is)
posted by scarabic at 11:50 AM on January 29, 2005

anonymous, I had this problem when I was very young. My parents and I fixed it with a bit of behavioural training. We set up a word, 'consequences', that ... when it was said ... I was supposed to stop, think VERY carefully what I was about to say or do next, and examine what was going to happen if I continued down the path.

If you find yourself in a situation where you have a loved one that you know cares about you but doesn't care for your behaviour, agreeing on a behavioural control like this ahead of time and asking him or her to say it when you've reached a point where you're being a pig-headed asshole and you need to stop and think about what you're doing may help you fix your problem.

Keep in mind though that it's YOUR problem, and while you can enlist others help ... it's ultimately up to you to examine your actions and think through the consequences of them.
posted by SpecialK at 12:06 PM on January 29, 2005

Being aware of the problem is definitely the hardest step, and you've at least begun that. Being aware of it while it's happening is the next step.

There are all kinds of books on how to get win/win outcomes out of your professional and personal life. Getting To Yes is one of my favorites, but there are many others.

Psycho-therapists also can be helpful to address issues like this, especially if they're really interfering with intimacy and relationships.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:56 PM on January 29, 2005

Making a compromise is in itself a compromise. In any compromise that really matters, you need to give up power, authority and control over something that is important to you -- things like time, autonomy, personal goals -- that may not be the direct target of the compromise. What you need to do is figure out what you're really trying to bargain for (is it really about compromising on where to live, or is it about giving up control of your life when you feel helpless in a lot of other ways) and then deciding on a reasonable course of action given what the real issues are.
posted by dness2 at 1:06 PM on January 29, 2005

'Compromise'. That is a loaded word. Let me break it down to 'needs and wants' and 'negotiation', indulge me.

Everyone else needs and wants things their way, just as you do. So, negotiate. Verbally. When you want things your way and they don't go your way, it's too late to, as you said, hurt someone you care about (I don't know what the means, but it means something to you).

Present what you want thus: "This is what I want: etc.", or "I want you/us to do etc.", but leave out the note of finality. Then show you are open with a question: "what about you?", or and listen, don't lash out at someone honestrly expressing a difference. Neghotiation is about fairness - all parties get something they want and/or need - something has to be more important than what they gave up.

Also, keep 'score' of the times people give you what you want, whether they were agreeing with you or acceding to your demands. You owe that person a 'pass' to let them have what they want next or some other time.

Nothing deep - fair is fair.
posted by nj_subgenius at 2:03 PM on January 29, 2005

Also, keep 'score' of the times people give you what you want, whether they were agreeing with you or acceding to your demands. You owe that person a 'pass'...

while this advice may be useful for behavioral modification, I would encourage you to try to recontextualize the behavior so that it is not about who owes what to whom, or whose "turn" it is to have things their way. Try to really live generously. It makes life so much better when you are honestly and truly happy that things went well for people you love, that you were able to give them something, that you helped to make them feel good, etc.

I'm not saying it's easy or anything, and I understand the general feeling of frustration when you really think x is the better choice, and your friend is bent on y, or whatever, but ultimately, being a good friend/relation/whatever is its own reward (so long as you're befriending basically decent people).

And, I would add that of course there are certain things one doesn't compromise, and it's important to really know why and to what degree something matters to you. It is good to overcome selfishness; it is not good to whittle away your own character or autonomy. The two are not identical, despite simplistic claims to the contrary.
posted by mdn at 4:01 PM on January 29, 2005

Here's a possible reality check: Does the other person acknowledge that you are being asked to make a compromise? In other words, does he/she say something like "I realize that you don't want/like/prefer X, but it would be really nice/helpful/useful to me if you would agree to do it." Similarly, does the other person do things that he/she would not prefer, but that you want? (In other words, is this relationship a two-way street?)

I ask because if the other person is saying "If you loved me, you'd do X", then your problem isn't about compromising, it's about conceding power to the other person.

Assuming for a moment that you are taking about a relationship where the other person is reasonable, then consider this: when you're thinking about doing something that you don't want to do, consider it to be an investment in the relationship. If you and the other person are both investing in that relationship, then it will get stronger.

Finally, as others have said, there are compromises and there are compromises. Going to a Mexican restaurant when it's not your favorite type of food is one thing; getting into a three-way sex act (say) that is against all your religious views is another. It's important to distinguish preferences from values.
posted by WestCoaster at 4:03 PM on January 29, 2005

mdn has nailed it. This just sounds to me like you are not exactly being generous with others. Some would call that being selfish. When you really care about others, instead of just about your self, it is rather easy to compromise.
posted by caddis at 7:43 PM on January 29, 2005

I'm curious about something. I wonder if you are, in fact, "selfish", or if the inability to compromise occurs because of something else - something that the compromise represents.

If you are generous (especially with those you care for) about sharing your belongings, your time, etc., then you are probably not exactly selfish. If you'd be happy to share the last piece of cake, even though it was supposed to be your piece that you didn't get to eat earlier, but find that you can't compromise on, say, where to spend the holiday, or what color to paint the house, then the reasons for your compulsion to have your way may be because not being allowed to do entirely as want represents a withholding (of "love" perhaps), or an imposition of power by the other person. It could be that it's more symbolic than practical or self-gratifying. We all go through natural stages of childhood wherein we learn to assert our will, and then once reassured that we have this right/power, we learn to temper that impulse... Maybe somewhere along the line you became sort of "stuck" in some way.

These are questions that a professional could help you with, but if you try to isolate the feelings that accompany your crises of refusal, you may get a clue. Do you feel frightened that you are being "controlled", or do you feel a kind of rage that you might not get what you deserve, etc.? I bring this up because you don't quite sound to me like someone who is simply selfish, or blindly self involved. The fact that you recognize your problem seems to indicate that there is a specific kink, as opposed to someone who is just entirely self absorbed. These people almost never recognize that they might be at fault or ever in the wrong.
posted by taz at 5:13 AM on January 30, 2005

Nah. This seems like just plain old selfishness on anon's part. Look at the way the question is framed, it revolves entirely around anon's view of the world. "I need help . . . . I have trouble . . . . I often hurt the ones I love . . . . I know I cherish the love more, yet I can not seem to make compromises." The last one is most telling, anon balances the thing he desires versus the love he desires and ignores the wants and needs of the other. Classic me-centric behavior. He (she?) does at least acknowledge that this hurts others but seems more concerned about how that affects their response to him than those other's feelings.
posted by caddis at 5:56 AM on January 30, 2005

maybe you can also tell us what the correct diagnosis is for the following behaviour caddis: someone asks you for help and you give them a pejorative label and dismiss further discussion?
posted by andrew cooke at 6:49 AM on January 30, 2005

Let's see, wanting to get your own way all the time and being unwilling to compromise with others. What would you call this other than selfish? As scody said, appropriate for toddlers, inappropriate for adults. You can sugar coat it all you want but selfishness appears to be the root cause of anon's inability to compromise. Realizing this is the fastest route to a solution for anon. This is just my opinion and I could easily be wrong given the limited information available. However, if I am right and this is anon's problem then dismissing this straight talk just allows anon to make further excuses and avoid facing the problem.
posted by caddis at 8:21 AM on January 30, 2005

while this advice may be useful for behavioral modification, I would encourage you to try to recontextualize the behavior so that it is not about who owes what to whom, or whose "turn" it is to have things their way.

Yeah... I guess taking turns to issue fiats is not a good way to go. But I always thought it could work out interestingly. For example, let's say it's your turn to put your foot down on something. An issue comes up. Do you spend your turn? Or try to work something out and save the turn for something perhaps more important down the line?

Spending a turn is equivalent to giving up all power to the other person, which makes good old fashioned compromising look more appealing in any given instance. The desire to maintain control is the very thing that encourages you to work out small differences.

Never tried such a system with anyone, tho. Prolly wouldn't work.
posted by scarabic at 10:00 AM on January 30, 2005

mdn nailed it; i didn't intend this to be some tit for tat game with 'scores'; I did say 'listen' and 'ask', in the original so....whatever.
posted by nj_subgenius at 11:30 AM on January 30, 2005

Nothing to add, but my hopes that you will find a way through this. Those who love you will continue to do so.
posted by grateful at 11:56 AM on January 30, 2005

However, if I am right and this is anon's problem then dismissing this straight talk just allows anon to make further excuses and avoid facing the problem.

No, caddis. You've correctly identified the problem, in your own language; but even obvious problems may have difficult solutions. Growing up in this way isn't particularly easy for a lot of people - it's hard for me, certainly - and that's why it's useful to suggest strategies, resources; and to give encouragement.

No need to berate the poor anon - after all, recall that he/she identified the problem, not you.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:59 PM on January 30, 2005

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