Hi Edward –
Smoothing (also known as Accommodating) and Compromising are both conflict resolution techniques that can be used in different situations. Smoothing emphasizes the common interests of the conflicting parties and de-emphasizes their differences. The Smoothing technique also stresses the adoption of shared viewpoints on certain issues to help facilitate movement toward a consensus and temporary resolution of the conflict. In this case, the project manager “accommodates” the other party so that they can both move on and get back to work on the project. It is important to note that Smoothing is considered to be a short-term solution and may have to be revisited at a later time. Smoothing is often used by project managers when it is important to provide temporary relief from the conflict or buy time until you are in a better position to respond and/or push back against the conflicting party. It is also used when the conflicting party “stands their ground” and refuses to budge on their viewpoint. In these cases, it is simply better for the project manager to accommodate this person since continuing the conflicting conversation would cause more harm than good to the project or other project team members.
On the other hand, Compromising emphasizes finding areas of agreement that bring some degree of satisfaction to all parties. The Compromising technique involves situations where each party engages in a discussion of “give and take”, each relinquishing a bit more of what they are expecting until a mutual agreement is reached. It is important to note that when using the Compromising technique, there is no distinct winner or loser and the decision reached is probably not ideal for either party, but is acceptable to both parties so that they can move on. Compromising should be used when the two parties are looking for an expedient and mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties. IT can also be used when the ultimate resolution of the conflict are of only moderate importance and not worth the use of more assertive or more involved approaches, such as forcing or collaborating.
I hope that helps you make the distinction between the Smoothing and Compromising conflict resolution techniques and when they are appropriate.