The Most Important Negotiation You’ll Ever Have

David Norris, MD, MBA, teaches that our internal negotiation is the first and most important negotiation we will ever have.

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 VIDEO SERIES section beginning May 8, 2022.


The Most Important Negotiation You’ll Ever Have

Negotiating may be challenging. It can be stressful. Many forces are acting against its success. When I work with a client, one of the first topics we discuss is internal negotiation, which must happen first. Once this has occurred, talks with others become more manageable.

There are two internal negotiations to consider. The first is your negotiation with your team, management, and staff. Everyone needs to be singing from the same sheet music in a negotiation. We should negotiate the terms of what we want with co-workers and superiors. This is critical to avoid sabotage from within, and so your team sends a unified message to the other side.

The second negotiation you should have is the one you have with yourself. It’s the most crucial negotiation you’ll ever have. You probably don’t see yourself as be someone you negotiate with. But since you do haggle with yourself, you must establish a good working relationship with yourself.

Our internal negotiation is our ability to see, feel, understand, and control our emotions. It’s about getting into the proper mindset for the external negotiation. The internal negotiation we have will impact the degree of success in our external negotiations with vendors, clients, and others.


Our internal #negotiation is our ability to see, feel, understand, and control our emotions. It's about getting into the proper mindset for the external negotiation. #MEDed Click To Tweet



It All Begins with Mindset

Your mindset is likely the single most significant asset or liability in your negotiating. As we noted earlier, your mindset is your attitude towards something or someone. There are good attitudes and bad attitudes out there. It’s easy to identify bad attitudes in others, but what about in ourselves?

Every action we take begins with a thought or feeling. We are emotional creatures, and our thoughts and feelings direct our actions. Before we act, we experience a thought or emotion. Even in situations where our fight-or-flight reactions engage, there’s an initial thought or feeling. When my daughter texts while walking through a parking lot and almost gets hit by a car, a thought, and an emotion rushes through me before I act to pull her out of danger. When I’m sitting at the negotiation table, and the other side makes an offer or statement that upsets, offends, or surprises me, I experience an emotion, and thoughts immediately pop into my head. These reactions, though typical, must be controlled. We control them by understanding our mindset, negotiating with ourselves, and predetermining our responses before these reactions occur.


Successful Negotiators Respond, Poor Negotiators React

It’s normal to experience thoughts and emotions in a negotiation. Stressful situations create pressure and strife. The burdens we and others place upon ourselves can work as a lever, making it easy to succumb to our emotions and react to the situation. Instead of reacting, however, we must respond.

Responding requires that you first understand the situation. You remain objective and recognize the impact your emotions can have on it. You must understand your mindset and have a plan for dealing with your thoughts and feelings, and creating such a plan requires you to understand your mindset through an internal, personal negotiation with yourself.

Reacting can lead to less-than-optimal outcomes as we draw upon our primal emotions. We might say or do something out of anger, excitement, fear, or frustration that negatively affects our position and power in the negotiation. If you’ve ever said or done something while reacting emotionally, you likely regretted it. We protect ourselves from such behavior by establishing rules of engagement with ourselves. This allows us to respond objectively as we negotiate.


Reacting can lead to less-than-optimal outcomes as we draw upon our primal emotions. We might say or do something out of anger, excitement, fear, or frustration that negatively affects our position and power in the negotiation. Click To Tweet



Steps to Negotiate with Yourself

Negotiating with yourself begins with asking yourself a few questions. Since questions are the best tool you have in any negotiation, it’s logical to start by asking ourselves these questions first.

  • What do you want in this negotiation?
  • What do you think you need? Have you mislabeled a want as a need?
  • What must occur for you to get what you want?
  • What is the best possible outcome? What is the worst? How will you cope with either?
  • What baggage are you carrying into this negotiation? Our baggage is the attitudes we carry from our past experiences, either in general or with a specific person, organization, or event. This baggage can contribute to our mindset and serve to bias our observations of the opponent’s words and actions. When approaching the negotiating table, check your baggage at the door.
  • What do you feel as you prepare for the negotiation? What are your initial thoughts? How would you characterize these thoughts and emotions? Why do you think you are feeling and thinking that way?


Before entering your next negotiation event, ask yourself those questions and write down the answers. This will help you identify and shape your mindset before you arrive at the negotiating table. Negotiating with yourself is the first and most important step toward a successful outcome. By completing this crucial first step, you’ll have better results in your negotiations.


Thought for the Day

Before negotiating with anyone else, have you negotiated with yourself? Are you aware of the feelings that will precede your actions? Run through the above list of questions before entering your next negotiation.


Tweet this:

Earn CME credit:

This learning experience is powered by CMEfy - a platform that brings relevant CMEs to busy clinicians, at the right place and right time. Using short learning nudges, clinicians can reflect and unlock AMA PRA Category 1 Credit.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

I Have to Wait How Long?!?!

I Have to Wait How Long?!?!

David Epstein, MD, MS, FAAP discusses why it takes time to be seen for an acute illness and what makes up a medical visit.

What if Twitter Went Kaput?

Dana Corriel, MD explains how professionals should ideally regard EVERY social media platform, and use it to their benefit.

Susan J. Baumgaertel, MD FACP

Navigating Your Health (with Dr. Susan Baumgaertel)

Dr. Baumgaertel draws upon her 30 years of experience as a physician in primary care internal medicine, and uses her personal story-telling style to communicate with you as if you are sitting right across from her. Pull up a chair and enjoy.

My DPC Story

Their DPC Stories

Physicians are increasingly looking to different practice models, as burnout rates continue to climb. This series explores the DPC model.

Support A Platform that Celebrates Real Doctors

For just $10 a month, you can help keep this openly accessible site available to all & help us sposnor in more doctors.

I acknowledge that this site is not to be used for medical advice.

Play Video
Our Founder Answers Your BURNING Question


“Why should I become a member of SoMeDocs if I already have my own space online?”