Harmonize Gracefully




Don't you love it when somebody readily agrees to do things your way?  Negotiating can be tiring.  It's a gift when someone just smiles and - with no persuasion needed - says "OK, I can go with that!"   

Fourth of a series on five conflict styles, this post showcases the Harmonizing conflict style.  With a focus on the relationship, setting aside your own wishes,  Harmonizing is not always a good option.  But in well-chosen situations, Harmonizing  is a great gift to those you live and work with, and potentially you as well.   I'll show you a handful of transition phrases to help you shift gracefully into this conflict response.

Why Harmonize?

Harmonizing brings grace, kindness and flexibility into relationships.  Longterm partnerships need generous amounts of this other-oriented conflict style to thrive.  Without it, endless disputation will wear you out and leave little room for joy.

If you scored high in Harmonizing while taking Style Matters, you already know this stuff.  If not, it's never too late to learn!

Choose your battles.  The first principle of Harmonizing is that human beings have limited time and energy for disputation.   Yes, it's true that well-managed conflict can transform and renew.  But too much conflict exhausts all involved.  We should be choosy about what we take a stand on.

The ideal moment for Harmonizing is when we care a lot about the relationship with our partner in conflict and we care little about the issue (or our goals) in contention.  For example, partners trying to decide where to go for lunch, or which shade of white to paint a wall might be wise to using Harmonizing.  Those issues just don't matter enough to quarrel over!  

If you scored high in the Directing or Cooperating conflict style, you may be wired to take every issue that comes along with great seriousness.  Your instincts may cause you to invest time and energy in things too trivial to merit the effort.  If you recognize such a tendency in yourself, experimenting with greater use of Harmonizing may hold special rewards for you. 

Transition phrases for harmonizing on easy issues

Here are transition phrases to help shift into a Harmonizing style  when you recognize from the outset the issues don't matter enough to debate:

  • I'm happy with that!  Let's go for it....  (After someone has indicated their preference.)
  • What's your preference?  I'm easy to please here. (If someone hasn't yet said what they want.)
  • Sounds good to me. 
  • What I care about most is a decision/solution that you're happy with.  I'd be really pleased to go with your preference.
  • If I had a strong preference, I would let you know, but in this case, I don't, so let's go with yours.

Transition from another conflict style

The above is pretty easy.  It's not hard to be flexible when you don't really care much about the issue.  But it's harder when you do care about the issue yet come to see that the other person cares a lot more than you. 

Exactly where you eat dinner might be a simple matter of convenience, cost, or taste for you, but for your partner it could be a matter of health.  Or in a financial dispute, five hundred dollars for one person might represent two hours of work whereas for another it might represent days of labor.  

Sometimes we only realize these things mid-way through negotiation.   Then we need transition phrases for graceful course correction.  How about one of these:

  • Now that we've discussed this, I realize there's important things at stake here for you.   I have preferences, but the things you're talking about are more in the category of needs.   Let's do this in a way that takes care of your needs and not worry too much about my preferences.  I'll be fine...."
  • Thanks for helping me understand where you're coming from.  In light of that, let's go with what you're proposing.   (Perhaps adding:) I'm not always so easily persuaded, but I now understand why this is important to you."
  • You know I started out this conversation requesting X.   But as we've talked, I've come to a better understanding of what this means to you.  In a relationship like ours, there's got to be give and take.  This time it makes sense for me to back off and go with your preferences.  

When you're over-powered or vulnerable

Then there are situations where you care a lot about the issues and the needs of the other side don't seem persuasive.  Yet you know it's very important to keep this person happy.   Maybe it's a situation on the job with a high power person you have to stay on the good side of.  Or maybe it's a living situation where disappointing a housemate or neighbor could disrupt a big piece of your life.  

This is hard.  It takes willpower!  Transition phrases here:

  • (If you can manage to "grin and bear it") Ok, I'll work with you on that....
  • It's not my first choice, but I understand how important this is to you and I'm willing to work with your request.
  • If you're too upset inside to pull off graceful acquiescence at this moment,  ask for time.  Eg: Could I come back to you tomorrow morning on this?  It's a different direction than I had in mind.  I'd like to think it through before deciding.

A caution about over-using Harmonizing

Some people habitually dramatize the importance of their needs.  If you're in a longterm partnership with such a person, watch out.  If you withdraw your own requirements whenever the dramatizer makes a case for the urgency of theirs, you'll end up over-Harmonizing.  Those many small accommodations add up.  

Harmonizing comes at a cost.  Do not under-estimate its toll if Harmonizing is all one way.  You may be giving away things you can never recover -  your health, your time, your self-respect, your spirit.  You may end up feeling you no longer know who you are.

If you feel chronically trapped, reach out for support.  You need conversation with others to get perspective.   Discuss the situation with a trusted friend, a counselor, or a support group.   

Monitor yourself for signs of burnout.   There may come a time when you simply feel incapable of Harmonizing any longer.  Try to figure out an exit strategy or ready yourself for a different response so you aren't permanently locked in. 

Honor Harmonizing by others

The best rewards of Harmonizing come when both sides use it generously.  This requires time, effort, and emotional maturity - it won't happen unless both sides actively think about the well-being of the other side and look for opportunities.  Each must ask themselves: Is this issue one where giving in costs me little and benefits my partner a lot?  

When there is a balance of Harmonizing over many issues, both sides win frequently on things that matter.  Bring gratitude into play to encourage this.  Notice and appreciate it when your partner harmonizes; be lavish with gratitude!

If you've already taken Style Matters, review your score report here.

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Sunday, 19 May 2024