The New Words In Negotiation


Your practice’s success partially hinges on your ability to negotiate successfully. Big or small, negotiations are always on the go. Likely, you have learned how to negotiate in your own way without any training.

The negotiation paradigm since the release of the ground breaking book “Getting to Yes” is to strive to create “win win” solutions. But is win win possible? I don’t think it is even though it is although it is a nice phrase.

Let’s be direct and true to ourselves, if you think you have won and the other person thinks they have won, both of you actually think the other has lost. Think about it.

You can’t win and they can’t win at the same time. I have yet to encounter a sport where the victor says, “we beat them but they won too”. Win win feels, nice but deep down within your soul you know that you’ve won or lost. At the very least, you have a nagging longing to learn if you could have done better.

So what do you do? How do you negotiate and not be a jerk or too soft for that matter? How do you not be too nice and give in?

The game changing words I use is “fair” and “unfair”.

Only you know what is fair to you. Only they know what’s fair to them. Why would you ever accept a deal that wasn’t fair to you and why would you ever treat someone unfairly? Fairness communicates reasonability!

Let’s look at a case study. When a patient complains to you about a challenging session with the hygienist try asking “just so I understand is it fair of me to ask you a question or two about the experience”? Patients will say yes 99% of the time because fairness signals reasonability.

“I am sorry you felt the hygienist was rough on you? When was the last time you were in for a cleaning?”

“Three years ago – I’ve been busy”, the patient says gruffly.

“I understand it is challenging to schedule health into your life. Would it be fair to say that you were overdue for a cleaning?”

“Yes the hygienist showed the plaque to me but I did expect it to be painful”.

“I get it. To be fair to my hygienist and to be fair to you, we can go easier next time if you commit to coming in more regularly.  Do you think that is reasonable and do I have permission to put that in your chart?”

You have been fair and gentle while holding the patient accountable for next steps. It is very hard to argue against fairness. Using fair brings reasonable back into play and discharges emotion. You can get back to the facts much more quickly.

Try fair and unfair for a while, you will be surprised how quickly your results will change.


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