Every interaction is a negotiation

Updated: 2 days ago

I’ve been reading Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss.

It’s really got me thinking about the way I communicate with patients and negotiate all things in life.

I’ve realised every conversation in life is a negotiation in some way or another. Whether it’s convincing a catastrophising patient that they can change, someone to do their rehab or even just the coffee shop barista to smile more. Hell, I just spent all night at dinner negotiating with a friend’s shitty limiting beliefs about why she needed to get out of her head and just apply for her dream job and see what happens.

What I’ve learnt from Chris’ book are actually quite simple lessons.

1. Don’t be afraid of awkward silences. The other person will generally always fill them by sharing with you even more. Opening up can be a really important component of someone’s healing journey.

2. Use their words. It indirectly builds rapport and means your message is more likely to be received and understood.

3. Always lead with a statement that reflects you’re at least trying to see things from their perspective. Things like, “It seems like you have a lot going on at the minute” or “It sounds like this is frustrating for you” helps reflect that you understand what they are going through. People must feel heard before they will listen to what you have to say.

4. Observe peoples’ body language and mirror where appropriate. We hear a lot about ‘mirroring’ other peoples’ body language as a way of indirectly building rapport with them. Given that over 90% of communication is non-verbal, body language is a huge part of the story we tell.

I know sometimes my communication still needs work. I still get triggered whenever a patient says I haven’t “fixed” them yet; when they haven’t done what was recommended, continue to do the exact same things that got them injured in the first place and have taken zero accountability for their own healing. It still happens all the time and how anyone can be so stuck in victim consciousness saddens, angers and baffles me simultaneously.

However I think there is special middle way where you can still be empathetic without accepting peoples’ excuses as truth bombs. Just because you are admitting how they are feeling, doesn’t mean you are necessarily holding their values or beliefs to be true. Just because I agree with someone that they have a lot going on doesn’t mean that I agree that they don’t have time to do their rehab. We’ve all got time. They just haven’t prioritised it.

Which is why I’m not sure that it is all that helpful for me to mirror peoples’ values, thoughts or postures all the time. For one, copying other peoples’ negative postures and emotions feels like shit for me. I continue to work hard on my self-development so that every day I can bring a better version of myself to the world. I don’t want to play small, even for a second, even to try and build rapport with a stranger. What is actually much more inspiring is for me to sit there fully owning myself. I can hold space for peoples’ junk thoughts and be compassionate towards them without holding them too tightly.

That, I think, is the special sauce in communication for the ‘inferior Ego’ or the empath: to remain compassionate without losing your own sense of agency. I’m f@#$king proud of the man I am still becoming and it is my hopes I inspire my patients to be damn proud of the person they are committed to becoming as well. I hope that they know that I try to lead by example. I hope they know that I 110% believe in their potential for change. I hope they know that I want nothing more for them than for them to step into their greatness. I hope they know that this is a collaboration: that I’m standing next to them, trying to see it as they see it, whilst also seeing where they are trying to get to and trying to get them to see that too.

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