Compromise v. collaboration

What to focus on relationally.


Jin Yoon, The Horizon

Meeting in the middle.

Lydia Cuomo, Guest Writer

I return to a messy room overflowing with trash. If I take it out, this will be the third time in a row I’ve done it. Room chores have simply not been getting done lately. We were supposed to split chores halfway, but the busyness of midterms has not been helpful. Our room looks like it needs professional aid. 

As we interact with more people and build relationships, we run into problems, and college is an intense time to experience this relational dance. College students experience conflict in ways they have never experienced it before; now, you’re constantly living and interacting with those people — especially at Westmont College, where the small school is a big plus until you see your ex everywhere after a big breakup. Conflict resolution is one of the joys of growing up, and we tend towards two common solutions to working towards relational solutions: compromise and collaboration. 

Compromise: An agreement is reached, but what are the costs to each party? 

This approach forces everyone to define the things they are unwilling to part with. It is incredibly good for developing a servant’s heart and learning to extend grace towards other people.

Compromise teaches us how to serve each other and develop a willingness to give up things so the relationship can prosper. Compromise has a tendency to end up with someone being frustrated and neither party satisfied, but it has the potential to be the quickest way to solve a problem. Everyone communicates their preferences and their idea of the ideal outcome, and then they choose the most workable solution. It is a good skill to have because compromising forces one to articulate. If a person cannot identify their preference, they often cannot compromise well. 

Compromise is a short-term solution to a current issue. It often does not deal with the problem in its totality, rather focusing on the most urgent aspects of the problem. The problem may disproportionately impact one person, so the solution of a compromise is geared towards solving the issues of one party.

It is also a wonderful tool to have when collaborating with people. Reality is, no one gets what they want all of the time. Compromise teaches you to advocate for yourself while simultaneously recognizing that you are not going to get all of the things you want.

The downside to compromise is that it tends to favor people who are naturally good at advocating for themselves. It rewards those with more forceful personalities because the focus leans towards finding a good solution quickly.

Collaboration: People working together to create a solution. 

In an ideal world, collaboration starts from ground zero: every party enters the conversation without any predetermined solutions and with a mind open to any possible solution to the problem. Rather than being set on one’s preference and self-interest, people have the opportunity to build a solution customized to the needs of multiple parties. It is the more time-consuming of the two approaches and is usually best for problems larger than taking out the trash. 

Collaboration involves a mind of selflessness; it also involves vulnerability. Coming up with a situation that addresses the needs of each individual requires transparency regarding the reality and importance of each of those needs. It is easy to communicate in terms of preference when it comes to compromising.

Collaboration requires both parties to actually take the other person’s situation and needs into account in order to move forward. This fosters more honest and direct communication. 

Collaboration is often more productive than compromise. Two people working towards building a solution together are often more satisfied with the end result than two people giving up things to meet in the middle. It also gives equal opportunity to multiple parties. Collaboration creates an inclusive conversation where each party is given the space to speak and work out what they need. 

Both problem-solving strategies produce a solution, and a large part of problem-solving is understanding how to approach a problem. Both do a better job at addressing certain types of problems.

I encourage you, while navigating your lives, to live with a willingness to serve others. Be willing to listen to what people need and come into problem-solving with an open mind. When you work to build a long-term relationship with someone, cultivate a habit of finding long-term solutions to problems that arise. 


Opinions expressed in letters and other editorials, unless otherwise stated, are those of the writers and not of The Horizon staff or the college collectively.

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