Negotiating with Your Doctor or Lawyer

As a culture we have this image of professionals as mini-gods. We take their word to be sacrosanct. They know everything and they what is good for us. After all, they are professionals. We come to them in need and their role is to make us better.

We forget professionals such as doctors and lawyers are mere mortals. They have the same afflictions we have. They have stress at home that impacts their work performance. Some have drinking or drug problems. Some have marital problems. They can have faulty memories or they could have graduated at the bottom of their class. One thing is for sure. They know less about our problems than we do.

Basically they are pretty regular people just like you and me. The difference is the time they spent in school studying medicine, the law, plumbing, or electrical circuitry. So they may be better informed and more aware of the viable options you may need to fix your specific problem. Then again, they may not.

In the case of doctors, medical science is changing by the hour if not the minute. How would it be possible for one professional with a heavy case load to stay current with every new diagnostic technique or therapy that might help you? In all likelihood they can't. That is why specialization has become so rampant. The problem with specialists is that they know their specific area very well but little about you.

What is it then that makes professionals unapproachable? Why do we think that they are omnipotent when it comes to our situation? Why do we let them take on the responsibility of curing our problems and relinquish near total control of our destiny? Why don't we question or challenge their actions? Why don't we discuss the prognosis and solution?

Professionals are trained to take control of the situation and manage the process. They are also trained to remain objective. This training is remarkably similar to that of a mediator. It is process-based and designed to do the most good for the greatest number of people. Unfortunately, your situation is very personal to you. This is the information age and today a fantastic wealth of knowledge is available to the patient or client who wants to participate in the solution.

So just how does one negotiate with a mini-god?

Easy. You handle a professional's visit just as you would any other negotiation. You have a problem and they may have the solution.

• Prepare for the visit. You wouldn't simply walk into a real estate negotiation without first reviewing the basics. Determine why you are going to the professional and make a list of the issues.
• Gather additional, pertinent information. The professional handles thousands of cases. You are but one of many such cases that serve to pay for his Mercedes, his golf club membership and his three alimony payments. Do not forget that you are the customer.
• Don't be intimidated. When he makes his grand entrance, don't go into shock and forget everything. If he is in a hurry, ask him to slow down a bit. You can also pace the session by responding to his questions slowly and methodically. If he appears anxious to get to the next patient or client, ask him to focus.
• Be proactive in the problem solving and the solution.
• Don't be hesitant to ask "Why?". You are allowed to press if you feel he is missing something or if you don't like what is proposed.
• Agree on the terms. It is your right to clearly understand the situation so that you don't get home and worry why you are doing things. You deserve to be fully informed every step of the way.

You will be surprised at how well received your interest will be. In many ways, you will be helping by providing needed information. A true professional will welcome this help. A weak professional will resist your interference. You be the judge.

The bottom line is simple when dealing with professionals. Do not forget that you are the customer. You pay them for their time, attention and their skills. They may forget this aspect of the relationship as their egos become inflated but it does exist. Their time is no more important than yours is. They are not necessarily smarter than you or less forgetful. They have good days and bad days. You are one of many people they will see that day.

Your problem is very important to you and you are paying to have it properly addressed. It is 'OK' to be a bit demanding to the extent that you get the attention you have paid for when making the appointment. It is OK to negotiate your needs.