Below: David Norris, MD, MBA: These behaviors will strongly improve your success at the negotiation table.

Negotiation Series Header David NorrisDr. 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 curated SERIES section.


Behaviors You Need While Negotiating 

The outcome of any negotiation is, in part, the result of the behaviors we display. They can reveal information about our thoughts and feelings. The most dangerous behaviors are those that signal fear. They betray us at the negotiating table by weakening our position. To improve your results, practice and implement these behaviors, and you’ll see the results of your negotiations improve over time.


Talk less.

When you’re asked a question, answer it succinctly and then stop. Get comfortable with “dead air” time. Silence can be uncomfortable for some. When they become uncomfortable, they’ll fill the space with words. Don’t do that. Let your opponent do it. Be friendly and engaging, but be careful about the answers you give and how you share the information they bear.


Don’t answer a question no one’s asked. 

During a negotiation, the adversary often makes a statement that seems to be leading to a question, but they don’t ask it outright. If you’ve walked into the event with a fixed mindset full of assumptions, you’ll be tempted to think you know what they’re going to ask. That is dangerous because you might inadvertently “spill the beans” in a way that weakens your position. Remember—no assumptions or expectations are allowed in a negotiation. Answering unasked questions violates that rule.



If you've walked in with a fixed mindset full of assumptions, you'll be tempted to think u know what they're going to ask. You might inadvertently 'spill the beans' in a way that weakens ur position. Click To Tweet



Be Silent.

That doesn’t just mean not speaking. It also means shutting off that little voice in your head. It’s tempting to formulate a response to a speaker before they finish because having a speedy response makes us feel important. We think it’ll make us look competent, confident, and capable.

Do the opposite, however, and you’ll come across as more thoughtful. How do you feel when you’re in a conversation with someone who’s ready with a response as soon as you’ve made a point? Do you feel they were listening to what you said? That’s probably how the other side feels about you when you’re not silent when they’re speaking. Avoid planning your response while they talk. Take your time to listen to what they say.


Have steady emotions. 

It’s normal to feel emotions during a negotiation. You’re only human. What you want to do is come across as emotionally stable. Don’t show anger, joy, sadness, or any other emotion, but let your responses be calm, collected, and poised. Maintain an even keel, and don’t give your opponent a hint of what you’re feeling.


It's tempting to formulate a response to a speaker before they finish because having a speedy response makes us feel important. Click To Tweet



Be “less than okay.” 

How do you feel when you’re around someone who seems perfect? Do you enjoy their company? Being less than okay isn’t about you, but rather your negotiating opponent. Put the other person at ease and make them feel okay. Avoid acting as though you’re perfect. Let the opponent see you’re human. Ask to borrow a pen or make a minor mistake that’s easy for them to catch and point out. The chance to help you out will make them feel better about themselves.

If you’re dealing with an arrogant individual, these little actions will confirm their superiority. One thing superior people do is reinforce that feeling with others. They will often share exclusive information to demonstrate their superiority. They might even share data they wouldn’t share otherwise. The wise negotiator knows that the only person who needs to feel okay at the negotiating table is their opponent.


Three-plus their yeses.

Three-plus is a powerful tool. When the other side gives you a yes, ask questions around that yes. Ask the different questions to determine if their yes is really a yes.


There are three types of yeses: confirmation, commitment, and counterfeit. A confirmation yes merely confirms a statement or data point. A commitment yes is what we want, and it shows they are committed to the deal. A counterfeit yes is a false yes, either because they don’t feel comfortable saying no or they intend to build our hopes with this, yes only to increase our fear when they say no later. Another benefit of the three-plus is that it confirms in your opponent’s mind that they’re comfortable with the decision, which will go a long way toward offsetting any buyer’s remorse.


Blank slate.

An effective negotiator works not with just facts and data but also with assumptions and expectations. Before you walk into a negotiation, render your mind a blank slate. You can confirm data and facts but eliminate assumptions and expectations, whether positive or negative. The keys to blank-slating your mind are researching and having a growth mindset.


Take great notes.

Perhaps the best method to help you maintain silence is to take great notes. Handwritten notes will help you silence your head’s little voice. They will give you time as your brain processes the voice’s words into the symbols your hand writes and will force you to focus on what they’re saying. These notes will also serve as a record of what was discussed and decided at the negotiation.

Thought for Today

Review the behavioral checklist before the next negotiation meeting to ensure your speaking doesn’t inadvertently undermine your negotiating position.

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