Negotiating? Shut Up and Listen

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By Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA

If you own or manage your business, you negotiate a lot. It is not just traditional contracts or formal agreements that I am talking about. I am talking about just about everything that has a desired outcome.

Whether discussing price with a vendor, compensation with an employee, or lease terms with your landlord, you are negotiating—you must remember this fact.

If you do not first acknowledge that you are in the midst of negotiation—and the person across the table does—you are apt to lose out on something you did not even know you could have been playing for. Ouch.

I do want to be clear however, that negotiating does not have to be a “zero sum” game—in fact, it really should not be. For you to win, someone else does not actually have to lose. The best negotiations result in wins for all parties—the prized outcome of all good negotiators.

And while win-win wins are the ultimate prize, the foremost goal should be to ensure you do not shortchange yourself. Walking away from a deal that did not have enough in it for you may carry some level of disappointment, but this is far better than the regret (or worse yet—the ignorance) of not getting your fair shake.

To protect yourself, I try to keep one principle at the forefront while negotiating. I listen.

Listening does not mean you do not have something to say. There are important aspects of negotiating that require you to plant your flag—making your stance be known. Do this too early though—especially before you know what makes your counterpart tick—and you have begun operating with limited knowledge. And knowledge is power when negotiating.

Talking compensation with an employee? Ask them what they are looking for; this will give you the opportunity to help them with a path toward that end.

Discussing price with a vendor? Give them some base parameters about what you are looking for (or can afford), and then let them fill in the blanks for how they can accommodate your needs.

Trying to agree on where to spend date night with your spouse? Well…I will let you handle that one (if anyone knows the formula for successfully pointing this to the football stadium, let me know).

Where flexibility is present—and most times there is —there are many paths to a desirable outcome. If you know how to use it, arming yourself with every bit of information you can uncover is going to work in your favor. Listening is a key tool.

Remember that it is not a criminal act to allow yourself every advantage you can get. If there is one thing we need in the physical therapy profession, it is the ability to give ourselves an edge. I will shut up now and let you do the same.

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Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA, is a physical therapist and entrepreneur dedicated to improving the profession through innovative business and marketing solutions. His work can be seen in such projects as PT Pub Night® and BuildPT.com. He is president of Vantage Clinical Solutions and can be reached at tannus@vantageclinicalsolutions.com.