Observing democracy in action, we seldom hear the words collaboration or participate fully in the process. We do hear the word compromise, usually with the word no in front of it. It’s no wonder; compromise for the sake of compromise generally means that neither party gets what they want. In systems (governmental bodies, work teams, families) compromise always goes down easier when it is preceded by collaboration.

Collaboration uses the energy of contribution to move a system to wholeness. It signifies a team approach where everyone is participating fully for the sake of a common purpose. Compromise without the energetic of collaborating is fed more by competitive self-importance than a shared vision. This is seldom effective.

Where this understanding has real value to me is in my own family. My life has been enriched by following the principle of what Cathy wants, Cathy gets. Knowing this, I am always open to supporting her desires. I also need to be vigilant that I am not compromising my own wants in the process.

Recently we decided to gift ourselves new living room chairs. We agreed on the style and Cathy wanted a recliner. Preferring ottomans, I remained open to compromise. The very first chair we looked at was perfect – looked great and was very comfortable. Unfortunately, when reclined it was not comfortable for me. (Normally, I would compromise just to avoid going to another store, but it is my personal comfort we are dealing with here.)

After a few hours in several stores having found nothing, a slight edginess began to creep into our shopping experience. (One chair was so comfortable for me that I didn’t care what it looked like – an obvious nonstarter, so I quickly abandoned the thought.) We returned to the original chair with the intention that I would compromise to get the style we both wanted. However, with the conviction of a gerrymandered congressman, I decided No Compromise.

On the drive home, rather than feel disappointment and frustration (well, maybe a little bit crept in), we focused on the rule that everyone in the House of Clarity gets what they want. We talked about our common desire for comfortable, attractive chairs that we can both enjoy for several years. Making that the focus rather than each of us feeling we weren’t getting what we wanted, the obvious decision appeared – we bought the recliners and we added a matching ottoman for Gary.

Achieving a common purpose with grace and energy requires a shared desire to collaborate for the greater good. If you want to be an effective, contributing member of a team that achieves that greater good, learn to play well with others, participate fully and contribute your full collaborative mind, body and spirit to the process. If you are a recalcitrant, sit on your hands, obstructionist congressman, call me. I have some feedback.

Collaborating with my feet up,