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Negotiating with Empathy

Understanding the needs and desires of the other party.

I was a nurse for 11 years in Texas (six years in McAllen and five years in Houston). 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. I’m bringing up nursing because it allowed me to learn very early on that empathy was a very important leadership trait.

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

But even prior to nursing, one of my former bosses, Charles L. H. (New Media Director for the also former, WHERE Magazines International) had indirectly introduced me to the notion of empathy in a roundabout way when he handed me Sun Tzu’s, The Art of War.

I read it front to back and back to front, often parked on a paragraph just to make sure I had understood its meaning. Perhaps, it was in the way that the book was presented to me, that I felt I really needed 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, and how my nursing allowed me to hone down on developing empathy.

Basically, 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 are based on a tough and unfaltering poker-faced attitude has never been wrong. For me, an empathetic and confident approach goes a long way to both parties achieving the desired outcome.

The secrets of negotiating are:
1. Understanding the needs and desires of the other party;
2. Understanding and knowing the extent of their resources that they are able to draw from;
3. Knowing what skills, value, and resources you are able to provide;
4. Knowing what you are going to be comfortable with.

Basically, 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.

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 have needed 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 (yet another amazing over coffee story), I quickly found myself in the world of freelance *something*. As most freelancers know, you may be great at what you do, but when it comes to negotiating what you’re worth, that is definitely something you have to learn to be comfortable with.

It was like that for me, anyway. It took some time for me to feel comfortable. Comfortable in stating a fee I would accept in exchange for a set of skills that were needed.

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. I am grateful. Having others being considerate of my needs as a personal approach to a business engagement taught me, likewise.

Regardless of who or what the company is, their net worth or rank, my first thought when it comes to negotiating any contract is that we are both humans, trying to figure out what are the best ways to work together, where both parties can be happy.

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

Thank you for taking the time to read this. You may not agree with the things I write about. That’s perfectly okay.

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