Dr. David Norris (the author of this article) is the host of the SoMeDocs video series called “How to Negotiate as a Physician & Win,” found in our VIDEO SERIES section beginning May 8, 2022.
Avoid These Two Behaviors in any Negotiation
I often help clients negotiate agreements, and I have noticed two significant errors many, including physicians, make in negotiations. They are showing neediness and making assumptions. Either one can sour the negotiation. They are deadly traps that keep you from getting what you want and work against your desired outcomes. Fortunately, you can control both of these saboteurs and guide your negotiations to success.
Neediness is the behavior we display when we are fearful. It is the physical manifestation of the fear we feel. Needy behaviors, such as talking too much or sharing important information, send signals to the other side that we are afraid of something, such as losing the deal.
The way we speak and behave can provide the adversary with valuable information about our emotions. They will pick up on the subtle cues about our emotional state during the negotiation and take advantage of our emotions. You may or may not realize where the fear comes from, but the display of that emotion gives the adversary power and leverage against you.
The way we speak and behave can provide the adversary with valuable information about our emotions. They will pick up on the subtle cues about our emotional state during the negotiation and take advantage of our emotions. Click To Tweet
Neediness originates from our sources of fear. Everyone has a different source of fear. Some people need to succeed and view signed contracts as evidence they are successful. They will do whatever it takes to get a signed contract because they’ve convinced themselves to do otherwise is to fail, and the psyche will be harmed.
Others desire friendship and good relationships with everyone in their life. They fear hurting someone’s feelings. To keep the relationship, they will give up what they want to save the relationship. Many people will agree to items that will hurt their organization if they think it’ll help them be liked and viewed as a “team player” by the adversary. Little do they know that those concessions eventually hurt not only them but the adversary as well.
The other big mistake we see people make at the negotiation table is to make assumptions about what the other side wants, what the other side needs, and what they’ll agree to. Assumptions are the false belief that we know everything there is to know about the adversary. It’s impossible to know everything about anyone, what they’re thinking, and how they’ll behave. Assumptions can lead us down a dangerous path and toward less-than-optimal results from the negotiation process.
People make assumptions because they believe since they are knowledgeable in one area, such as medicine, that makes them considerably knowledgeable in other areas. It’s not their fault; our psyches are wired that way. But that natural wiring works to impair your negotiations. How many times have you made assumptions about a patient? You might have walked into the exam room with a preconceived notion of what’s going on and left with a different diagnosis. That same thing can happen with negotiations and the outcomes can be as bad as missing the diagnosis with your patient.
How did we find the correct diagnosis with our patients? We ask questions. If we accept the hypothesis that we may have incomplete knowledge, we should seek to fill in the gaps to arrive at the proper diagnosis. The same thing happens at the negotiation table. How many times have you been surprised during a negotiation? You didn’t expect the other side to make that offer or accept your proposal—you were caught off guard. Why? Because you tried to predict another human being’s behavior and thoughts. If weathermen cannot predict the weather accurately all the time with their mathematical models, how can we think we can predict human behavior with greater accuracy? Make it easy on yourself and refrain from guessing.
The best way to find out what the other party is thinking or what they want is simple: ask them. As physicians, we’re taught to ask our patients hard questions. We usually have no issue asking about tough personal issues. We claim it’s in their best interests. The same principle applies to negotiations. We should ask the hard questions at the negotiation table. Set the tone for them by getting permission to bring up the topic. Explain it is in the other side’s best interest to ask this hard question so that we fully understand their point of view. You would be surprised how much information you can gather by asking the hard questions.
Set the tone for them by getting permission to bring up the topic. Explain it is in the other side's best interest to ask this hard question so that we fully understand their point of view. Click To Tweet
The two things that will keep you from succeeding in any negotiation are neediness and assumptions. Know what you’re fearful of before you start negotiating. If you know what you’re afraid of, you can better control it and the emotions you display. Either you control your fear or it controls you. The only way to handle it is to understand yourself well. Don’t assume you know everything about the negotiation or adversary. Ask the tough questions so that you can fully understand the problems the adversary is facing. Assumptions will lead you down the wrong and you will get less than what you deserve. Walk into the negotiation understanding you don’t know everything and must ask questions to fill in the gaps.