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Successful negotiating skills are an extremely important aspect of the business side of the healthcare industry. Unfortunately, often times I see medical students finishing school with a lack of basic negotiating skills that they will need to have down the road in their careers. Of course, people cannot always get what they want when it comes to negotiations. Successful negotiations usually end with each side either feeling slightly disappointed or slightly happy due to the outcome. Here is a breakdown of negotiating tips to help you reach success.

The Process

It’s crucial to prepare properly for any negotiation you are about to enter and understand the process. This includes being able to structure your side of the argument with proper facts and figures that serve as back up on your behalf. Be careful to also listen to and understand your opponent in this process, to try to get a feel for what is important to them, and what their ideal outcome may be. Another helpful way to do this is through bargaining with them, face to face, so you can gauge in the moment how they are feeling through their facial expressions and body language.

Negotiating Style

There is such a thing as etiquette within negotiations. It’s important to develop a style of your own, but keep in mind that there is another party involved. Networking is crucial for any successful business person, so be careful during negotiating that you do not burn any bridges with the person across the table from you. Being overly aggressive is a way to ensure they likely won’t want to work with you in the future, so it’s crucial to find the right balance within your style.

Important Basics

  • Plan and prepare for the negotiation
  • Set high expectations in the beginning
  • Let the other party make the first offer
  • Be sure to bargain!
  • Listen carefully and know your subject matter
  • Practice your verbal skills
  • Have a confident exterior

Leverage

Usually, the side that has the most to lose within a negotiation has the least amount of leverage within the situation. Before you enter a negotiation, see what you can do about lowering the number of items you have “at risk”. One way you can do this is by nonchalantly demonstrating that this is not your only option, and there is no desperation surrounding your negotiating efforts. Potential employers will be much more accommodating with the outcome of the negotiation if they sense this. And if you don’t have a backup plan, invoking the perception that you do is just as effective.

Expanding Interests

As mentioned above, it’s important to be listening to your opponent through the entirety of the situation, and make mental notes of shared interests that may be expanded on as a mutual benefit for both parties. Present yourself as an asset to the other party, demonstrate your ability to be flexible and work together. Your opponent will feel far better about the outcome of the negotiation if they know there is something for them to gain.

Trade-Offs

Never enter a negotiation without preparing to give something up on your list of needs as a trade-off. If you are not sure right away which could go first, rank them beforehand by the level of importance. Your opponent may try to knock off your heavy hitters right in the beginning, but having that leverage discussed earlier should help offset any drastic moves your opponent tries to make. Be flexible in your conversing with phrases like “if you can provide ___, I would be willing to give up ___.” This is a great tactic to get a gauge on how the negotiation is doing, and will also point out to your opponent that you can be cooperative and understanding.

Set Goals

It’s important to set clear goals or outcomes before ending the negotiation. Make sure that when scheduling this, you have ample amounts of time to wait out the best outcome for you, while demonstrating flexibility to your opponent. Time is a huge factor in negotiating that oftentimes is not considered. Be patient and calm throughout, and don’t put too much pressure on the negotiation moving too quickly. A hurried exterior could result in stubbornness on the opposite side, especially if they think they can out wait you.

Negotiating skills are something that every person should have and use in their life. There should be more emphasis placed on the overall importance of learning and honing in on these skills. Practice as much as you can, to become as prepared as you can. If your first negotiation does not go as well as you hoped, use it as a learning experience to push forward next time.

Dr. Arnold Peter Weiss is the R. Scot Sellers Scholar of Hand Surgery; Chief of Hand Surgery; Vice Chairman & Professor, Brown University.

Weiss APC: Negotiation: How to be Effective. J HAND SURG, 42: 53-56, 2017.