Getting to "We Agree"

Physical coaching tips to negotiate well
Getting to “We Agree” – Physician coaching tips to negotiate well
July 31, 2019 at 4:00 AM
by Philippa Kennealy
physician coaching, negotiating, getting to yes

A conversation with a physician coaching client this week reminded me of a little book with a special place in my heart – "Getting To Yes" by Roger Fisher and William Ury.

My physician coaching client is in the midst of a contract negotiation and, like many physicians (including myself), he has had no training in the artful give-and-take of dealmaking. The experience is discomforting, and I suspect his unease stems from a conflict between his natural desire to "win well for himself" and an over-riding feeling of not wanting to be seen as haggling. Isn’t that the way we all feel when confronted with a situation we have to negotiate?

I pulled my yellowing, tatty copy of "Getting to Yes" from the bookshelf to remind myself of its invaluable principles, and decided to share them with you, in case you need a refresher.

So how do you negotiate well?

To evaluate how well a negotiation has gone (from the book), you judge it by three things:

1. Does it produce a wise agreement, if agreement is possible?

2. Is it efficient?

3. Does it improve (or at least not damage) the relationship between the parties?

How you accomplish a good negotiation?

· Don’t negotiate over positions. A position is a viewpoint that you hold, that is often quite extreme from the other person’s position, and that you tend to hold onto stubbornly. Negotiation then becomes a series of small concessions inching you away from your original stance but nowhere close enough to agreement. Not very productive. The goal for most people who try to make deals this way is to WIN!

· Don’t give in to the compulsion to be nice. As contradictory as this may seem, being nice and engaging in "soft bargaining" does not produce good deals. Instead, the deals tend to be what Ury and Fisher describe as "sloppy", and this bargaining style may place you at risk when the other person plays hardball.

· Separate the people from the problem. It pays to remember that the person on the other side of the table is a feeling, emoting human being, who is prone to human reactions, as are you. The relationship of mutual trust and respect is at stake, and this is especially important if you anticipate an ongoing affiliation.

To separate the people from the problem requires that you be committed to accurate perceptions, put yourself in the other person’s shoes, recognize the role your own fears and emotions are playing in your own judgments, and own your own problems. Be explicit about your feelings and acknowledge those of the other person. Say things like "This is how I am feeling, and I am wondering how it is for you?".Communicate by listening actively and reflecting back on what you are hearing.

· Focus on interests, not positions. It is your interests – your concerns, hopes, and desires – that reallydefine the problem under negotiation. A quote from the book: "Your position is something you have decided upon. Your interests are what caused you to so decide."

Find the shared and compatible interests as well as the conflicting ones behind the opposed positions. Do you both want stability? Do you both value independence? Or is it customer results you both care about?

Ask "why?" to understand the other person’s interest – "why does this matter to you?". Realize that each side probably has more than one interest at heart.

· Be hard on the problem and soft on the people. When you are both pushing hard for your own interests, you may stimulate each other’s creativity to generate mutually advantageous solutions. Work to find the place where you are aligned with the other person, both attacking the problem at hand. This is hard, but not impossible to do!

· Invent options for mutual gain. Great brainstorming requires that you: come up with options withoutjudging their merits, broaden the number of options on the table instead of narrowing them down to the single choice right away, and strive for mutual benefit.

· Insist on using objective criteria, not whose will is greater! Use commonly accepted standards (market value, precedent, "comparables", tradition, reciprocity etc.) as independent measures, or fair procedures ("one cuts, the other chooses"). Use reason, and be open to reason. A great example is a negotiation over money. You want to pay the lowest price, the other person wants to get the biggest sum of money – opposing interests. What if you were both to reframe the issue to become a shared goal: "How do we determine a fair price?" "How did you arrive at your figure? Here’s how I arrived at mine".

· Be prepared to opt for your BATNA. The reason to negotiate is to produce a result that is better than if you had not negotiated – correct? Your BATNA is your "Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement". This is the other option that you would take if this negotiation isn’t going in the direction that is good for you. What result could you obtain elsewhere, or by taking a different course, that is better than a bad compromise in this negotiation?

It is valuable to know your BATNA in advance of the negotiation. This knowledge will help you explore possibly more creative solutions with the person opposite you. Instead of ruling out any solution that doesn’t meet your bottom line, you can compare the proposal to your BATNA to see which one is best for you.

To develop your BATNAs, come up with a list of actions you could take if you don’t reach agreement, pick your best ideas and convert them into practical options, and finally select the one that seems best. This is your BATNA – and the clearer your BATNA, the greater your ability to improve the terms of the negotiation. Judge all other offers against it.

Know that the other person also has BATNAs available to him or her – try to imagine or even discover what theirs are.

As Rudyard Kipling put it: "If you don’t get what you want, it’s a sign either that you did not seriously want it, or that you tried to bargain over the price".

If this is sounding a bit mysterious, I encourage you to read the book – it’s short, concise and a classic, and you will quickly become a powerful negotiator, as I think my physician coaching client is discovering!