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How To Be A Good Negotiator: A Complete Guide

Jan 18, 2022

At some point in your life, you will need to negotiate. Negotiation is the process by which two or more people solve a problem, usually through a compromise. The solution is a better outcome for both parties.

Negotiation is an important life skill to possess. Different situations in various careers use negotiation in one way or another.

As a physician, you will need to negotiate at some point. You might need to negotiate a new salary with another health care professional. You may need to arrange a conflicting work schedule. Perhaps you need to discuss a leave of absence. 

Whatever the situation, negotiation is a valuable conflict resolution skill that all doctors should learn. Let’s take a deeper look at negotiation and how to apply it to your life. 

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The Two Types of Negotiation 

There are two types of negotiations:


  • Distributive negotiation: Distributive negotiation is also called “hard bargaining.” This type of negotiation is what most people think of when they hear the word. In this situation, both parties feel strongly, and one person’s win is the other’s loss. Usually, one person will walk away with a better deal.


  • Integrative negotiation: Integrative negotiation isn’t as intense. Both parties search for an outcome that pleases both sides in this situation. 

Don’t worry. You won’t be quizzed on what kind of negotiation situation you’re in when the time comes. But knowing the two types of bargaining helps you predict specific outcomes.

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What Are The Characteristics of A Good Negotiator?

If you’ve made it this far in the post, chances are you want to be a good negotiator, but maybe you don’t have the know-how. What are the exact skills necessary to be a tough, effective negotiator?

Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics. 


This skill seems a bit obvious, but you need excellent problem-solving skills. As physicians, we solve problems daily. You can’t shy away from difficulties when people pay you to solve their medical concerns. 

A tough negotiator has tough conversations. Some physicians would rather diagnose a heart condition than ask for a higher salary! But if you don’t have the conversation, boundaries will be crossed.

Active Listening

Negotiation is less about talking and more about listening. Listen to the other party. What are their priorities? What are their goals? Do they have any alternatives? Use affirmative responses when the other person is talking, so he knows you’re listening. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk. 

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence means having emotional agility in different situations. Simply put, it means having thick skin. You need to understand and manage your emotions when making negotiations. Otherwise, people won’t work with you. 

Planning Ahead

How can you make a good deal? Can you imagine showing up to negotiate and not knowing your terms, goals, and alternatives? You’ll walk away with a bad slice of the pie, and someone may take advantage of your lack of preparedness. 

So, do your research if necessary and show up with everything in order. Some surprises will arise, but they won’t shock you as much. 


The heart of any sale is building rapport. Building rapport means building a relationship with the other person and showing that they can trust you. Yes, when you are negotiating, you are selling something- yourself. 

Building rapport is one of the first steps in any sale. Everyone has built rapport before, like on a first date or a job interview. At some point, you convinced the other party that you were worth it. Someone who builds rapport is genuine, trustworthy, reliable, and even has a sense of humor. Be yourself, but be professional!

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Know your goals, priorities, and have alternatives in mind before your discussion. 

The 7 Basic Rules of Negotiating

Rule #1: Time it right

You can have the best presentation or speech planned, but it won't matter if the timing isn’t right. Schedule a time to speak to the other party. This needs to be a time without interruptions, and both parties have each other’s full attention. 

Rule #2: Be prepared 

As I said before, know your goals, priorities, and have alternatives in mind before your discussion. The negotiation will go faster, smoother, and the other party will appreciate your effort. 

Rule #3: Tell the truth

Never, under any circumstances, should you lie. Lying destroys your rapport and no one will trust you afterward. Always tell the truth about the situation and how you feel. 

Rule #4: Don’t get emotionally attached 

Part of negotiating is understanding that you won’t walk away with everything you request. Don’t get emotionally attached in case the negotiation fails. 

Rule #5: Speak only when necessary

Once you’ve made your point, ask the necessary questions and stop talking. Remember, negotiation is more about active listening. 

Rule #6: If it doesn’t work, say something

This rule goes hand-in-hand with telling the truth. Be upfront if something in the negotiation won’t work. If the other party makes an offer and it won’t work, say it.  

Rule #7: Understand your counterpart

Know who you’re talking to. Everyone has a different personality type. Some people want facts and figures. Other people are great at making decisions and will make a decision instantly. Know your counterpart as best as you can. Plus, the conversation will be easier!

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Why Do Negotiations Fail?

Oftentimes negotiations fail for a few reasons. Perhaps you’re too rigid and aren’t flexible enough. Other times, people just aren’t prepared and don’t develop the rapport they need to make an impression. Sometimes, the timing isn’t right. 

Negotiation takes practice, so don’t feel like you need to walk into a meeting with all the answers. The truth is that negotiations fail for different reasons. Most of the time it’s related to the 7 Rules of Negotiation and has little to do with the person, but sometimes it can be a personality clash. 

Ultimately, the point of a negotiation is to find a compromise that is good for both parties. Negotiation is about adapting to change so everyone can be happy. Stick to these rules, and your negotiation skills will improve in no time!

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