Home Career How to get what you want when you’re negotiating

How to get what you want when you’re negotiating

November 2007

You may have stellar reasons for wanting to negotiate a new service or bigger salary. But if you don’t have the right persona and confidence, you can expect negotiations to fall short.

That’s particularly true for pediatric hospitalists, said Linda Snelling, MD, chief of pediatric critical care at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, R.I., who addressed just such a crowd at a meeting this summer held by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Take that teddy bear off your stethoscope,” she told her audience. “Your power and influence are related to how you project.”

Here are negotiating tips she had to offer:

  • Take up space. How you enter a room to negotiate, where and how you sit, and how you leave account for “90% of how you’re judged.”You should, for instance, choose your seat carefully. In the U.S., two seats “those at the head and the foot of the table “are the “power” seats, so don’t sit there unless you’re leading the negotiations. Instead, “I like to sit on the side of the table in the middle facing the door because I can see everyone and really read the room,” Dr. Snelling said. Posture counts too, she added, so square your shoulders and sit still.
  • Watch your voice and language. When you’re tense, your voice tends to rise, which makes it hard to sound authoritative. Everyone, particularly women, should aim for a lower pitch when speaking. Taking deep breaths keeps you calm and helps you project your voice.At the same time, choose words carefully. Peppering your pitch with qualifiers like “kind of,” “sort of” or “I’m no expert” sabotage your message.
  • Don’t take it personally. Some people “Dr. Snelling singled out surgeons “have an in-your-face negotiating style. “You think it’s going badly but actually that’s just the way they do it,” she explained. If you stand up to it and not take it personally, “you can get a lot done.”
  • Give yourself time. Always give yourself time to craft a response, even in what Dr. Snelling called “ambush negotiations,” where another physician in the hall asks you to cover his or her patients for a holiday weekend.”Even if you already have that gut feeling that you don’t want to do this, there is a way to negotiate that respects the relationship,” she said. Your reply should be, “Let me think about it, and call me tomorrow.” The key, she pointed out, is making sure the person has to call you. “If what they’re looking for is the next sucker, they’ll find someone else,” Dr. Snelling pointed out. “If they’re looking to build a relationship, they’ll call, and you’ll work something out.”

For more negotiating tips, read Learning the fine art of negotiation.

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