Consistently leveling with colleagues, patients and others can promote a relatively straightforward path to optimal goodwill.
I just had some extended family over for a pool party/cookout. Once upon a pre-pandemic time, I threw larger annual, non-familial summertime blowouts but you can imagine what the past few years have done to such plans.
This year, however, I decided that there had been enough familial isolation, and cast a wide net of invites to various cousins. Everybody involved had taken COVID-19 seriously, gotten their shots, etc. so it wasn’t exactly a risky affair. Anybody who felt otherwise could simply choose to not attend. It was a great time, and I do enjoy hosting.
There were some capable negotiators in that crowd. One does it for a living. His background was in physics, but his livelihood has been in the business world for as long as I can remember. He prides himself on getting the best possible deal and leaving no stone unturned. Another couple of them are seasoned car traders and always seem to wind up with deals almost too good to be true.
I’m not such an individual. Just the thought of hard bargaining exhausts me to the point of outweighing any potential gains I might be leaving on the table. Even when I have been in marketplaces where you’re supposed to haggle over everything, I find myself unmotivated to buy rather than dive into that process. Give me your best faith offer. I’ll accept or reject it and let that be that.
Still, I know that there’s a certain societal expectation of a bargaining dance, and I’d be a fool to imagine myself somehow immune. I go ahead with it when I must do so. At least it can be said that I have improved over the years. Every now and then, hindsight makes it clear that I could have done this or that better, and I can wind up feeling embarrassingly sucker-like.
That embarrassment can be tinged with anger at myself. It’s one thing to look back and wish that you’d known then what you know now. However, sometimes you can tell that you probably had the wisdom to avoid whatever pitfall you fell into.
There’s more than just a tinge of anger when I know that my suboptimal deal wasn’t 100 percent my own fault. That is, I didn’t completely make a sucker out of myself. Someone else made a sucker out of me. Maybe there is blame to be shared. Perhaps the other party saw that I was overlooking something important and let me proceed for instance. Perhaps the other guy was more of a villain, giving me incomplete information or outright lying.
Sometimes the deal I made was fine but subsequently, the other party deviates from its terms (or just the spirit of the agreement), essentially with the attitude of “What are you going to do about it? Take me to court?” In these cases, I can still wind up feeling like a sucker, a particularly angry one, because I should have built more defenses into the deal for myself, or simply because I misread the other party’s character as being better than it was.
In the final analysis, though, it matters relatively little whether I am 100 percent to blame for being a sucker, the other guy was totally guilty, or whether we were both to blame.
Feeling like a sucker makes me want to take action. Perhaps it is just to convince myself that I have learned enough not to make the same mistake again. Perhaps it is to get myself out of the situation rather than staying in it and remaining a sucker. Possibly, there is an opportunity to get some payback if I think somebody else is to blame.
Not only does it matter relatively little who is to blame for being a sucker, I also don’t much care which side of the deal he or she is on. I don’t want any suckers at my table. If I could magically transform myself into a consummate negotiator like those relatives I mentioned, and always get the best deal even if it meant making the other person a sucker, I wouldn’t want to.
Maybe I would feel otherwise if I were in a different line of work, in which I could have transactions with people and never see them again. But the diagnostic radiology field is a small world, and even the health-care sphere is a limited space. Heck, with social media being ubiquitous as it is, anyone could cross your path again someday and just might make a point of it if he or she remembers you making a sucker out of them.
If there is even a shred of a chance someone I dealt with is going to be in my life again at some point, why on Earth should either of us prioritize out dealing the other to the point that bad blood may be engendered or try to bend the rules of an agreement to one’s own benefit after the fact?
To my way of thinking, the potential gain would have to be monumental to sacrifice that much goodwill. It would be better to let the other person come away with something, even if you don’t have to, so he or she can feel like there was a “win,” and be happy at the thought of dealing with you again in the future.
I think back to a couple of former employers who chose to mess around with the deals I had with them while still trying to maintain a good working relationship. I wonder if things might have gone differently if I had the presence of mind and gumption to say, “Maybe my expectations were too high when you hired me, but the way things are panning out has me feeling like a sucker. Do you want me to feel like a sucker for being on your team? How can we fix this?”