Friday, 16 Nov 2018

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Negotiation Skills for Rheumatologists

Physicians as a group are trained to have excellent clinical skills, but the difference between an average and extremely successful physician often comes down to factors outside of their ability to provide clinical care. 

Eventually, all of us will need to negotiate a contract. Or we may need to settle a conflict within our clinic or organization. Or maybe we need to convince others that our research is worth funding. Or convince our patient that a treatment that you recommend will be helpful. Or convince politicians to support a cause important to rheumatologists or patients. (Maybe you just need your kids to eat dinner nicely). In any case, leadership and negotiation skills are what can help take you from good to outstanding.

Unfortunately, most training programs offer little to no training in leadership skills such as negotiation.

Because of this, rheumatologists need to make time to learn some of these skills, and the earlier in ones career that these skills are learned, the better. I consider negotiation one of the most important career meta-skills, to the point that the downstream effects cannot be overstated. 

This year, ACR had a session titled “Leadership Skills for the 21st Century Rheumatologist,” which discussed conflict resolution and negotiation from a generally theoretical perspective, and provided are great overview of the topic. As a field, rheumatologists are small in number compared to other fields, and therefore don’t often feel that they have the negotiating power as some of the larger or surgical fields. This talk pointed out that often, this feeling is simply a mismatch of realizing what you and the other really wants, which might be more emotional than logical. 

However, the best book that I have come across to learn real-world negotiation tactics is “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss. For background, Chris was a former FBI hostage negotiator for 20 years, and the book uses examples of real hostage negotiations to illustrate important negotiation tactics and techniques, and then provides real world applications. (The book is entertaining enough that even if wasn’t intended to teach you negotiation, the cases described are thrilling enough that you would want to read this book anyway).

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