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Negotiating With Empathy

Nurses make the best negotiators. I should know. I was a nurse for 11 years in Texas (six years in McAllen and five years in Houston). Nursing allowed me to learn very early on that empathy was a very important leadership trait. In other words, empathy is also important when it comes to negotiating.

If you want to hear a remarkably inspiring, incredibly funny and moving story (yes, it’s all that), take me out for coffee and ask me about my nursing.

First of all, not all nurses are empathetic. Although, Empathy is something you get formerly introduced to in the nursing program. Unfortunately, not all nurses are genuinely empathetic. Empathy is something you develop, if you’re lucky.

… it’s coming to the table with the knowledge that the other party is no less better than you because they are human just like you.


Prior to nursing, one of my former bosses, Charles L. H. (New Media Director for the also former, WHERE Magazines International) had introduced me to the notion of empathy in a round about way. He handed me Sun Tzu’s, The Art of War.

I read the book front to back and back to front. I often parked on a paragraph just to make sure I had understood its meaning. The way my former boss presented the book to me made me feel that I had to understand the book’s teachings in order to be successful.

Looking back, I could see how the foundations of negotiating and strategy were being formed within me. I was able to see how nursing allowed me to hone down on developing empathy.

Simply put, it’s coming to the table with the knowledge that the other party is no less better than you because they are human just like you.


The notion that the skills of negotiation is based on a tough and unfaltering poker faced attitude has never been more wrong. For me, an empathetic and confident approach goes a long way to both parties achieving a desired outcome. Long gone are the days of putting on your game-face in a boardroom. I understand that when it comes to negotiating with high level corporate clients, you may have to. I also find that these types of clients are *high maintenance and the turn around time for a decision to be made can take months. This does not apply to all these types of clients. I found that it key difference in a smooth or slightly bumpy process depends largely on the characteristics of the c-suite mindset. A good way to figure this out early on is to observe the corporate culture, if you can.


1. Understand the needs and desires of the other party;
2. Know the extent of their resources that they are able to draw from;
3. Communicate what skills, value, and resources you are able to provide;
4. Decide what you are going to be comfortable with.

It wasn’t hard to learn this. Especially when you had to talk a grown man into allowing you to insert a rubber catheter into this urinary meatus i.e. penis. I’ve always said that nurses made great PR reps and negotiators.

I’m not saying that one would need to be a nurse or be in a similar profession to develop PR and negotiating skills. I’m just saying that many of the situations that nurses find themselves call for PR and negotiating skills, to some degree.

After I left nursing, I found myself in the world of freelance *something*. Freelancers know what they are great at doing. But they quickly need to be comfortable when it comes to negotiating what they’re worth. I learned this the long and hard way. I am still learning.


It took some time for me to feel a level of comfort. Confidence was important when stating a fee that I would accept in exchange for a set of skills that was needed. It took my a few years to build up to this. I also had to feel good about putting a price to the value I would give to a client. More importantly, I needed to find comfort in knowing that they would see my value and pay me for it.

I’ve noticed something interesting when I look back at my early days of freelancing. I could see which clients were empathetic when it came to negotiating fees and resources and those that were not. As a result, having others being considerate of my needs as a personal approach to business taught me, likewise. Meaning, I’ve had clients that were empathetic to my freelance situation and had made accommodations to ensure that my financial needs were met. To this day, I am forever grateful to them. This is not a usual mode of behaviour for clients but it is starting to become less unheard of. This would be a perfect example of a human-to-human #H2H business relationship.


Regardless, my first thought when it comes to negotiating any contract is that both parties are human. We’re simply figuring out the best ways to work together so we can all be happy. It would be great if all business relationships could be this way. Sadly, not all are. If this is the case then prepared to put on a thick skin, make sure you have extra emotional and psychological energy to spare, and be prepared to draw from your other financial reserves, if you have any, just in case they decide to pull a MIA.

To summarize, next time you find you’re about to enter into any manner of negotiating, try empathy. It may surprise you.

Feel free to follow me on twitter if you’d like or send me a message.

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