Use Silence for Power in Negotiations

Hush up and get more out of the other side.Say less and get more. If your idea of negotiation is a fast-paced game of back-and-forth, there’s a good chance that you’ve left a great deal on the table over time. Master negotiators understand that the strategic use of silence is a primal, effective tool in tilting the table their way.

Silence is uncomfortable for lots of people. Extended silences on first dates, in marital fights, and from brooding teenage family members all produce gaps we want to fill. We become anxious to balance prolonged silence because our minds run away with us– we ask ourselves: “What’s wrong? What am I missing? How can I fix this?”

When you’re involved in negotiations, use this core impulse to help control the process. When you’ve stated your offer, pipe down, take a deep breath, and wait for the other person to respond. When they respond, don’t come back right away. Count to five in your mind and let the counteroffer sit. Many times, this silence alone will be enough to prompt the other party to give a little more.

If you find yourself in a full-blown argument over a point, the use of silence is also very powerful for 1) keeping your cool, and 2) allowing your opponent to “burn themselves out.” Your silence starves off their source of “fuel for the fire,” and before long they’ll begin to wonder if you’re even listening. At that point, you can calmly pick up the negotiation.

Sometimes the most powerful thing to say is nothing at all.

Photo credit: Skelekitten

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