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(5.15) How can I become a better negotiator?

(5.15) How can I become a better negotiator?

Negotiation is two sides working to agree to something both sides like. Usually, you must talk, make offers, and be flexible when you negotiate. Meetings you have with the regional center or other agencies involve some negotiation. IPP meetings and less formal meetings can be a negotiation.

But, sometimes there are disagreements that cannot be solved with negotiation. If that happens to you, you can have a formal hearing or use the agency’s complaint process.

Follow these steps to help you prepare for a negotiation:

Step 1: Write one paragraph about the problem. Your paragraph should:

  • Describe the problem
  • Say what causes the problem
  • Say what changes you need to resolve the problem

Keep in your own mind what you will accept as a solution. What you will accept is your bottom line – the point you will not go below. Don’t say your bottom line before the negotiation starts. Save that for when the negotiation process gets stuck, and it does not look like the regional center will make the changes you want. If the regional center will not provide your bottom-line solution, you may have to appeal the regional center’s decision to a fair hearing.

Important! Do not give your notes to the regional center or agency. These are your notes to help you negotiate.

Step 2: Figure out who you need to negotiate with. Look for someone with authority who is closest to the problem. For example, if the problem is a disagreement with your service coordinator about the need for a service, you could negotiate with them. If regional center denies a service because of its policy, you need to negotiate with someone with more authority, like a manager. You cannot negotiate with someone who does not have the power to say “yes.” Demand to speak with someone with authority to give you the services you need. The Lanterman Act gives you the right to meet and negotiate with people from the regional center who are authorized to resolve your situation.[1]Section 4646(d) and (f).

Step 3: Look at strengths and weaknesses of your position and of the regional center’s or other agency’s case. To figure out if you are in a strong position, think about:

  • What the law says about the service or other situation you are negotiating with the regional center about.
  • What are all the facts that everyone agrees on?
  • For the facts you and the regional center do not agree on, can you prove what you think is true?
  • Are there other situations where the regional center provided similar services to what you are asking for to resolve a similar problem?

You can make your case stronger by:

  • Getting an evaluation of you and your situation by a professional;
  • Asking other regional center clients and family members who know about your situation to support you in your request;
  • Talking to local or state elected officials about your situation or contacting the media about your case, if the regional center is not acting reasonably.

Step 4: Make two lists: One list has the reasons the regional center (or another agency) told you about why they disagree with you. The other has reasons they may have for disagreeing with you, but have not said or written down. Here are reasons the regional center or other agency may disagree with you:

  • They do not agree you need the service.
  • They do not believe you are entitled to the service under the law.
  • They do not understand what you need.
  • They do not believe they can go against an existing policy for buying the service.
  • They believe the service you are requesting might harm you.

The regional center may have reasons for not agreeing with that they do not say or write down anywhere. These are:

  • They fear liability. This means they are afraid something bad will happen to you and you will sue them.
  • They are afraid to set a precedent. The regional center is afraid that if they give you this service, everyone else will want it too.
  • They do not take your request seriously.
  • They are set in their ways and always use the same procedures and provide the same services in the same amount. They do not want to change the way they have always done things for everyone they serve.
  • They think it costs too much money.

Step 5: Make a plan and stick to it! Write a plan that says how you will get the regional center to agree to what you want. Focus on the reasons the regional center has for not agreeing with you. This includes reasons they have not talked about, but you think may be why the regional center has denied your request. If you can give them what they want or are worried about, and still get what you want, you have a good chance of success.

To make your plan:

  • Research the facts.
  • Figure out your bottom line.
  • Figure out the compromises you are not willing to make (non-negotiable points).
  • Figure out the compromises you are willing to make, but keep these to yourself for as long as you can.
  • Set up a date, time, and place for the negotiation.
  • Write an outline and rules for the negotiation.
  • Set a deadline for coming to an agreement. If you can’t agree by the deadline, you may have to go to a hearing.

You can ask someone to help you in the negotiation, or you can bring an expert who supports your position. You can ask someone with more authority from the regional center to come to the negotiation if you are afraid the right people will not attend.

Supplement M has a worksheet that can help you prepare your negotiation.

1 Section 4646(d) and (f).