HME Expo preview: Negotiate without fear

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The following is the third in a series of Q&As with speakers who will present at the inaugural HME Exposition & Conference, April 21-23, in Baltimore. To register for the event, go to

Just as his company's name implies, Tom Dardick of The Communication Gym wants to put you through a workout. But you won't break a sweat with these exercises--Dardick plans to show HME Expo attendees how to flex their negotiation muscles by building core communication skills critical to negotiating success.

Being a good negotiator, says Dardick, requires practicing "sub-competencies" that add up to mastery. He'll share two key negotiating sub-competencies at the HME Expo: clarifying positions and interests, and identifying a BATNA or "best alternative to a negotiated agreement."

HME News: What obstacles do providers face in negotiations and how can they overcome them?

Tom Dardick: We often confuse both our own and our counterpart's positions and interests. We take a position early on and get married to that position and lose sight of the overall interest that drove us to the discussion. When we can distinguish our base interests and positions, (a negotiation) looks more like having a conversation and mutually reviewing options. I'll also be helping attendees identify their BATNA. Whenever I'm in a negotiation, before I go in, I create a next-best alternative. It's a way to be free in the moment, to feel like there's a way out, so it's harder to be battered down. Attendees will partner up with the person next to them and spend time applying the positions, interest and BATNA approaches to a situation in their lives.

HME: Are there certain attitudes we bring into a negotiation that help or hinder our progress?

Dardick: Self-awareness is where any mastery starts. It frees you up to be more open to the other side. A lot of people don't like the emotional dynamic of a negotiation. As a result, we give less of an effort to the negotiation; we compromise more; we avoid the conversation. Over time, that aversion can be costly. Awareness frees you to equip yourself and create the circumstances that will work in your favor.

HME: If providers take away one piece of advice from your session, what would it be?

Dardick: The ability to distinguish their own and their counterpart's positions and interest, and to frame the discussion so it's not adversarial. Your aim is to frame the conversation so you're all on the same side of the table, both trying to get what we want.

Tom Dardick

Title/company: managing member of The Communication Gym

Services provided: communication training

Session: "Negotiate Your Way to Success"

Date: Thursday, April 23, 9:00 a.m.

Contact: 717-343-9229 or