The Art of Compromise

Have Best Alternative in Mind Before Beginning Any Negotiation Process 

By AAPL Staff
October 31, 2017

Negotiating is uncomfortable for many people, but successful compromise keeps business going. 


A quick takeaway to help you hone your leadership skills.

The challenge: Sitting at the negotiating table is a reality of business, and a fact of life even for those of us in the business of medicine.

Physician leaders frequently find themselves negotiating, whether it’s over a vendor contract, workplace issues or even their own compensation. Negotiating is uncomfortable for many people, but successful compromise keeps business going.

Using the example of a salary negotiation, here are three steps to help make the process easier.


This is your aspiration goal. It can be anything you want, as long as it's specific and measurable. For example, if you want a salary increase, you should know exactly how much of a raise you want. Your aspiration goal needs to follow two rules:

  • Don’t sell yourself short. If you think you have a realistic chance of getting a $5,000 raise, then make your aspiration point $7,500.
  • Keep it realistic. If your aspiration point is too ambitious, you'll lose all credibility in the negotiation. Research anything you're trying to negotiate.


This is your reservation value — the worst deal you'd be happy with. In the previous example, you might be willing to take $1,000 even though you sought $7,500 and hoped for $5,000. Any proposal that falls between your aspiration goal and your reservation value is a win. There’s only one rule to follow:

  • It has to be better than your BATNA. What’s that? Read on.


Your BATNA — your best alternative to a negotiated agreement — is your source of power in every negotiation. It’s your “Plan B.” Have one in mind before any conversation. It can be as significant as accepting another job offer or as simple as deciding to look for a new job. It must be two things:

  • Honest and realistic. If you know, deep in your heart, that you won't actually go through with your BATNA, then it's useless. It needs to be a legitimate option.
  • Worse than your reservation value. If your BATNA is better, then you should raise your reservation value. After all, why would you walk away from your negotiation before you've reached your floor?

RELATED: How to Have a Friendly But Firm Negotiation Process

THE BOTTOM LINE: Negotiation is a compromise. It’s always OK to share your aspiration goal with the other party. If they don’t know what your goals are, it’s harder for them to make a reasonable counteroffer. You can even share your BATNA. But never share your reservation value — because that’s the offer you’ll get.

Adapted from: Fundamentals of Physician Leadership: Negotiation

The American Association for Physician Leadership® provides a comprehensive online curriculum. Click here for more about our educational offerings and credentials.

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