Jennifer and Chris are both opinionated and strong-willed people. This is partly what drew them together in the first place. They’d debate for hours about politics, religion and anything else they could think up.
Their passion was sparked by this intellectual sparring.
Unfortunately, this source of passion does not translate well when Jennifer and Chris are trying to make a decision about their own lives. It’s fine for them to disagree about which political party is going to turn around the economy, but when it comes to their personal finances, relationship habits and how to parent their children, deep divisions have formed.
When they make decisions, it usually feels like one wins and the other one loses.
They both have begun to resent compromising in order to break the stalemate. This has NOT benefited their relationship which has become more and more tense and cold.
It’s bound to happen.
In a love relationship or marriage, there are undoubtedly going to be times when you and your partner don’t agree. This difference in opinion might be about whether or not to ground your teenager, if you should buy a new car or repair your older model or even how often you’ll make love.
There can be countless tricky situations in which you are in apparent opposition about an issue and you’ve got to find a way to move forward.
What often happens is compromise.
Compromise sounds great, in theory. At first glance, it is a way for you and your partner to “meet in the middle” and to find a resolution that you both can be okay with. But, in reality, compromise can feel like you lost or gave in.
When you compromise, you are giving up what feels important to you and this doesn’t always foster a sense of connection and cooperation in your relationship.
Instead, it can breed more conflict and resentment too.
What’s the alternative?
Writer and teacher Stephen Covey talks about the power of synergy. In his book, The 3rd Alternative, Covey explains that synergy isn’t what it’s often assumed to be. In many cases, synergy implies that I am somehow subsuming what you want and imposing what I want– sort of like a corporate takeover.
Synergy, according to Covey, is all about being open to creating a solution that is even better than what either you or I propose. It is not about deciding whether “your way” or “my way” is best and then cobbling out some compromise in the middle. It is all about really hearing one another and creating a third way that is “our way.”
This model of problem-solving that Covey teaches is applicable in the boardroom and the family room or bedroom. It by-passes compromise where neither person is fully satisfied and offers exciting new possibilities.
3 Steps to Synergy:
#1: Get your priorities straight.
You absolutely need to be clear about and remember your priorities if you want to by-pass compromise (and its negative consequences). This means that you catch yourself when being right or proving your point becomes more important than finding a solution.
Really hear yourself as you talk with your partner about a difficult issue. Notice how you are feeling and also notice the thoughts that are going through your mind about this perceived struggle.
Gently remind yourself that your priority is to come up with an answer AND to keep your connection with your partner healthy and strong.
Remind yourself that this is not a win-lose game. You and your partner don’t have to be on opposing “sides.”
#2: Listen for understanding.
Covey emphasizes how vital it is to really listen to one another.
How many times have you been in a discussion with your partner or anyone else and you were mostly thinking about what you’re going to say next? It happens to us all. We sort of listen to what the other person is saying, but we’re mostly listening to our own internal dialogue of what would be a good comeback or what we assume the other person really means.
Instead of assuming, guessing, filling in blanks or jumping to conclusions, ASK.
If there’s any confusion at all in your mind about what your partner wants, thinks or feels, ask. Ask in a way that lets him or her know you truly do want to know and understand. To listen and really consider what your partner is saying doesn’t mean you agree or that you’ll automatically do whatever he or she says.
It just means that your goal in that moment is to really “get” what your partner is saying.
#3: Allow room for the best solution.
Listening for understanding is one prerequisite for synergy. After all, how can you two come up with a perfect blending and solution if you don’t fully understand one another?
Create room in your mind and in the conversation to pull out the strengths from what you both propose and incorporate them with other ideas to form a solution. When you allow synergy to come together in this way, not only will you both be okay with what’s decided, you’ll both be excited about the decision and more connected in with one another too.