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[00:00:00] Hello everyone. Welcome to The Testing Psychologist podcast, the podcast where we talk all about the business and practice of psychological and neuropsychological assessment. I’m your host, Dr. Jeremy Sharp, licensed psychologist, group practice owner, and private practice coach.

This podcast is brought to you by PAR.

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Welcome back, y’all. Today’s episode is largely comprised of reflections on the book Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz.

Why are negotiating skills important for psychologists?

There are many situations where good [00:01:00] negotiating skills can come in handy and they’re not just life-and-death scenarios with risky clients. Negotiation is helpful when navigating lease terms, hiring, booking clients, and talking with your clinicians among other contexts.

I approach this episode by highlighting some key ideas from the book and then applying them to the context that I just mentioned. Let’s get to it.

All right. Let me dive right in. This book, Never Split the Differenceis written by a professional negotiator who’s worked at the highest levels around the world.

Let’s talk about negotiation a [00:02:00] little bit. What is it?

Negotiation is any situation where two parties are trying to come to an agreement. It can be pretty hard, it can be conflict-ridden, it can be easy. There are all kinds of variations on negotiation, but basically, any situation where you’re trying to come to an agreement. When you broaden the definition and think about it, that could apply to almost any situation in our practices. 

Let me talk about some of the key ideas from this book and try to apply them to some real-life scenarios.

One quote that stood out, an underrated quote, I think, the underrated idea is, the author says, “You can use your voice to reach into someone’s brain and flip an emotional switch.” It’s that simple idea that vocal tone makes a big difference. [00:03:00] Now, he gives different names for the different types of tones that we can use. One of them is called the late-night DJ voice. My favorite. The others are the positive or playful voice and the assertive voice.

He says that assertive voices should be very rare. Although many of us, myself included, especially with my kids, can go assertive quickly when we feel defensive or feel the need to set boundaries. This is my strategy and often the only strategy when working with upset clients, by which I mean… Let me back up. That was likely a little bit confusing. My strategy is not to get defensive and use an assertive voice. My strategy is to use the late-night DJ voice or the playful voice when working with upset clients.

[00:04:00] I’m often the endpoint for upset clients in our practice. I tend to do all the talking down for folks when they’re mad about something that happened with billing or whatever it may be. And I think, in large part because I use these strategies, I keep the conversation warm, empathic, and positive. So the idea that just listening, agreeing, and saying, I understand or tell me more, but doing so in a warm tone and a curious tone goes a long way in conflict and negotiation.

I’ve gone into phone calls with clients or meetings with upset employees prepared to make any number of concessions just to keep them happy and then have been [00:05:00] positively or pleasantly surprised to find that just having a kind, empathic, somewhat playful conversation can go a long way and sometimes eliminates the need to make concessions.

This also goes a long way on sales calls when you’re trying to convert client leads if you keep things optimistic and positive and in any situation where building a relationship matters, which is, I would argue pretty much every situation.

Let’s move on to the next point that I pulled from this book.

I should have said, this is by no means a comprehensive summary. There’s plenty of good information in this book that I’m not going to talk about. These are just a few that jumped out that I thought could apply to our practice.

This next quote is, “For good negotiators, NO is pure gold.” I’ll say that one more time. “For good [00:06:00] negotiators, NO is pure gold.” A lot of us go into conversations wanting the other person to agree with us, right? That’s how I approach it quite a bit, but the author argues that no is a more valuable tool. The reason for this is because being able to say no provides the other party with a sense of control and everyone likes control. In fact, in a negotiation, people are vying for control throughout the entire conversation. So being willing to give the other person the opportunity to say no goes a long way.

I think about this a lot with my wife because she has completely mastered this tactic and is at this point, I think manipulating me with her [00:07:00] use of this tactic because she knows we have a running joke that I will always say no to anything she asks the first time that she asks.

Over the years, she has learned to ask for whatever she might want me to do, want us to buy, go somewhere, or whatever it may be. She’ll just ask a few months ahead of time or a week ahead of time or whatever’s appropriate. I’ll say no and she’ll say, okay, and let it drop. And then after another few days, she’ll bring it back up. I might say no again, but then there’s a little more conversation and then usually about the third time she brings it up, and again, I’m pretty sure this is just a completely structured and premeditated plan, she brings it up the third time and I’m ready to agree and say, how do we [00:08:00] do this? So saying no gives a sense of control and that is very helpful for most folks.

Chris Voss, the author of the book argues that you want to give the other party the right to say no as early as possible, but the trick is that you don’t take it as a literal no. No could mean, I’m not ready yet, I’m uncomfortable, I don’t understand, I can’t afford it, I need more info. It could mean any number of things. In other words, NO is just an opportunity to learn more about whatever is happening, whatever you’re asking them about, whatever you are talking about.

I’ve seen this come into play many times in our business. With clients, if you give them an out right away, you can say, you don’t have to commit to anything, or these services may [00:09:00] not be a good fit for you, or this is an investment and not everyone can make that investment, then it gives them the opportunity to say no, and it also gives you the chance to say something like, what would make it worth it? What would I need to do? How might I do that for you? And you can get some insight into their hesitations.

Now, he also advocates employing a tactic that I’m still on the fence about, but it was very interesting and compelling. So for folks who are not getting their work done or not responding, say an employee who’s having trouble with reports or notes or something, he advocates writing a direct message or email to them that says something like, “Have you given up on getting your reports done on time, or have you [00:10:00] given up on getting this project done, or are you giving up on the possibility of this relationship?” This right away gives people the opportunity to say, no, of course I’m not. And then it opens the conversation to more collaboration. So interesting concept for good negotiators, giving away a no is pure gold.

Another point that I wanted to bring up or quote rather, from the book is “That’s not empathy, that’s projection.” This gets at the idea that when we go into a negotiation, we think that both parties are thinking the same way or even better yet that the other person is thinking the same and approaching the problem the same way you are.

[00:11:00] This is inherently not going to be true because everyone is going for the most fair option, yet nearly everyone feels that negotiations are unfair. There’s always a disconnect between you and the other person, but we assume that the other person is thinking the same way we are.

We assume that our employees know the ins and outs of the business and have the business’s best interests at heart. We assume the clients know how valuable our services are and should gladly pay what they’re worth. We also assume that clients have full intentions of paying for their services, period. We assume that our landlord has a kind heart in the lease terms that they might be setting forth. We all assume that we’re making rational choices when we’re making emotional choices a lot of the time.

So a way to [00:12:00] combat this is to go into a negotiation assuming that you’re going to be on different pages. A phrase that the author advocates is saying something like, “I want you to feel like you’re being treated fairly and please stop me if you ever feel like I’m being unfair.” And that just sets the tone from the beginning that the two of you might disagree and the other person can let you know if that starts to happen. It also gives the other person the opportunity to say no, which we just talked about, and set boundaries in the process to feel more in control.

The last area that I want to touch on here is questions that you can ask the other party that will help move the discussion or the negotiation forward. These are sample [00:13:00] questions taken straight from the book.

The one that I love is how can we solve this problem together. This is pretty self-explanatory. It gets you on the same team. And I like that. How can we solve this problem together? It also puts the ball back in the other person’s court and forces them to come up with a collaborative solution of some sort to move the discussion forward.

Another question that can go a long way is what’s the biggest challenge for us here? Notice the language. What’s the biggest challenge for us here? So again, bringing the two of you together onto the same team and identifying the biggest hurdles, not keeping them in the background.

The last question that you may implement if there is some trust in the relationship and things are going relatively well in the negotiation is how would [00:14:00] you approach this if you were in my place? This works well with employees, supervisees, and perhaps with clients as well.

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All right. Let’s get back to the podcast.

So these are just a few topics, ideas, [00:15:00] attitudes, and quotes taken from the book Never Split the Difference. Again, negotiating tactics may not come into play in a very overt way in the work that we do, and framing things, everything almost as a negotiation could be a nice reframe to implement some of these approaches and think about the structure of the conversation that you are having.

So I hope that you found this helpful. The book is listed on the show notes. I recommend that you read it. It’s a quick read. There are lots of good stories in there and there are many nuggets to take away for the work that we do.

I did not even mention a scenario like when we’re giving feedback to clients. I think that would be an excellent scenario to employ some of [00:16:00] these skills as well, particularly letting clients say no and using a calm or playful voice, things like that. That’s not empathy. That’s projection. All of these ideas apply to feedback sessions as well. So if nothing else, I hope you take one or two things from this podcast and maybe check out that book to learn a little more.

All right y’all. Thank you so much for tuning into this episode. Always grateful to have you here. I hope that you take away some information that you can implement in your practice and your life. Any resources that we mentioned during the episode will be listed in the show notes. So make sure to check those out.

If you like what you hear on the podcast, I would be so grateful if you left a review on iTunes or Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

And if you’re a practice [00:17:00] owner or aspiring practice owner, I’d invite you to check out The Testing Psychologist mastermind groups. I have mastermind groups at every stage of practice development, beginner, intermediate, and advanced. We have homework, we have accountability, we have support, we have resources. These groups are amazing. We do a lot of work and a lot of connecting. If that sounds interesting to you, you can check out the details at thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting. You can sign up for a pre-group phone call and we will chat and figure out if a group could be a good fit for you. Thanks so much.

The information contained in this podcast and on The Testing Psychologist website [00:18:00] are intended for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this podcast or on the website is intended to be a substitute for professional, psychological, psychiatric, or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 

Please note that no doctor-patient relationship is formed here, and similarly, no supervisory or consultative relationship is formed between the host or guests of this podcast and listeners of this podcast. If you need the qualified advice of any mental health practitioner or medical provider, please seek one in your area. Similarly, if you need supervision on clinical matters, please find a supervisor with an expertise that fits your needs.

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