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.
“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” — John F. Kennedy
Negotiations are as stressful as they are challenging. You may feel as if you have been backed into a corner. Like other creatures, humans get emotional when they feel trapped. Emotions can lead to counterproductive behaviors and thoughts. You’re often not even aware of your feelings while at the negotiating table.
The two most dangerous emotions we experience there are fear and greed. Both are products of a fixed mindset that focuses attention on ourselves and our needs. A skilled negotiator will pick up on your emotions, much like an experienced poker player can read the “tells” of other players. So, you must control your emotions and how you display them, and I know that’s easier said than done.
Be Aware to Beware
To control something, we must first be aware of it. We must take time and energy to focus on our feelings. As you negotiate, pay attention to what’s going on inside your head and heart. Be both willing and able to be honest with yourself. Take a hard look at your feelings. It all starts with your mindset.
Merriam-Webster defines “mindset” as “a person’s attitude or set of opinions about something.” We know when someone has bad attitude, but what’s is an attitude? It’s the way you think and feel about someone or something. Therefore, your mindset is how you think or feel about a person, place, or event. This is important, because our actions and behaviors are determined by how we think and feel. Every behavior we display, every word we speak, is dictated by what we’re feeling and thinking at that moment.
When you negotiate, your mindset is how you think and feel about the negotiation, the person you’re negotiating with, the terms of the agreement, your wants, and their needs. What is your gut reaction when you hear the word “negotiation” or “contract talks?” If it’s negative or tinged with fear, you probably have the wrong mindset.
What is your gut reaction when you hear the word “negotiation” or “contract talks?” If it’s negative or tinged with fear, you probably have the wrong mindset. Click To Tweet
Types of Mindset
There are two basic mindsets: fixed and growth. People with a fixed mindset believe things can’t be changed. They are focused on themselves and their needs. They’re pessimists. They believe that you either have what it takes to succeed, or you don’t.
People with the growth mindset believe there’s always room for improvement. This mindset frees people to focus on the needs of others and tends toward optimism. The fixed mindset isn’t so much the opposite of a growth mindset, so much as it’s the absence of the former’s limiting beliefs.
When it comes to negotiations, I encourage my clients to develop and maintain a growth mindset. With it, they recognize they don’t have all the answers. They acknowledge their shortcomings and are less likely to walk into a negation with harmful assumptions or expectations.
The growth mindset also lets you focus and stay and stay focused on others and their needs, not just your own. That focus makes you better able to discover the real problems your counterpart is facing and how you may best solve them.
The fixed mindset isn’t so much the opposite of a growth mindset, so much as it’s the absence of the former’s limiting beliefs. Click To Tweet
Changing Your Mindset
You might not enjoy negotiating. You might even dread it. If you don’t yet have a growth mindset, however, don’t worry. You can change it. An effective method for doing that is to use a proven system. Systems work to provide guidance in decision-making, especially in stressful situations.
In healthcare, physicians and nurses use Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) in the same way. ACLS is a system we use in the stressful situation of a patient’s cardiac arrest. ACLS keeps us grounded in our thinking so we remain calm. It helps us make effective decisions and keep our emotions at bay. You might dread going to a code, but with the right mindset, you can go through the code effectively. In fact, you probably use a system to help you.
When you are negotiating, you need to have a system as well—something that will guide your thinking and allow you to control your emotions during this stressful situation. Using a system is critical when facing an adversary intent on using aggressive supply chain optimization tactics with you. They intend to trigger your emotions, especially fear. They’ll use phrases such as, “be a good partner,” “we can find someone else to do this,” “we will go over your head, to your partners,” and so forth. They’ll try to commoditize you and your services. Having a system in place that grounds your decision-making is the best defense against such an adversary.
They intend to trigger your emotions, especially fear. They’ll use phrases such as, “be a good partner,” “we can find someone else to do this,” “we will go over your head, to your partners,” and so forth. #negotiation Click To Tweet
Thought for Today
What is your mindset? What thoughts and emotions do you have when you’re faced with a tough negotiation? Once you are aware of your emotions and thoughts, you have a better chance of behaving in a manner that protects yourself. What system will you use to keep grounded in reality rather than overcoming by fear?