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Putting Your Negotiation Skills to Use During and After Medical School

Some people have the God-given talent to sell anything to anyone, be it ideas, or products. This gift of gab can be more than just a handy talent to use at parties and to expand your social circle; an informed yet influential individual can use such skills in just about any professional field. The medical avenue exemplifies this tenfold. Without negotiation abilities, you’ll have a hard time relating to fellow staff members and patients alike. For many of you, the heart of your success will lie in communication skills, not just your medical knowledge, and in many cases, the arguments you’ll be taking on will literally be life and death discussions. By learning the best way to negotiate and persuade individuals in your professional career while you’re still in college, you’ll help secure your dream positions and set the stage for a rewarding career full of accolades and life-changing successes.

The art of negotiation, contrary to popular belief, does not just involve the power of persuasion. It’s of course important that you’re an articulate and well-spoken communicator, but it’s equally crucial that you’re able to truly listen and actively provide targeted feedback and opinions to the people you work with and for, not to mention your patients.

Start using these skills first in the classroom – a place you spend a great deal of time in during your medical school experience. Like it or not, you’re in competition with every other student you share class-time with, and no matter how logic-based your courses may be, a little influence can go a long way. If, for example, you’ve been given an assignment that you simply cannot finish, for whatever reason, a master negotiator will work with the professor to work out a reasonable compromise. Remember that this is the heart of any negotiation – you won’t likely get exactly what you’re asking for, but the idea is to land somewhere in the middle. In the future, you may be negotiating a patient into accepting a life-saving medical treatment that they have apprehension about. Learn to maneuver your way through these conversations now, and when the truly stressful situations arise, you’ll know how to handle them with ease.

When you’re ready to state your case on any issue, do yourself a favor and prepare a little beforehand. Say you’re massively unhappy with a test score, and you know you’re far more capable and knowledge than the results reflect. Perhaps you had an off day, or there was a misunderstanding about the material. It’s entirely possible your teacher will allow a do-over, but not unless you ask. Don’t demand special treatment, nor should you emphasize your excuses. State your case factually, briefly noting your reasons, and ask in a very polite manner for a chance to resolve this issue. Offer as many solutions as you can think of. If the professor isn’t into a re-test, ask if there’s an opportunity for extra credit, or any other method you can make-up some ground. When you hear a firm “no”, listen to the reasons, and try one more counter, with additionally flexible offerings. In many cases, you’ll certainly get the results you’re after, but it isn’t guaranteed. Think of it this way – if you don’t ask, your grade certainly won’t improve, and regardless, you might just infuse more respect into the heart of your professor, and they’ll remember that down the road.

Regardless of whether your negotiations reach a favorable ending, any attempt to persuade an individual or a group to your cause or idea is never wasted. College is a mirror of life in the real word, and a good negotiator can mold any given reality into a win-win situation if they set their minds to it. You’re about to embark on a people-focused career, so this skill set is even more critical for a medical student. So look at every chance to negotiate an outcome as a splendid opportunity to hone your talents. Someday, this could literally be a life or death negotiation, and you’ll be glad you had the chance to polish your abilities beforehand.