How to Negotiate Without Saying Anything

For my birthday last month, I had the fun of meeting Penn and Teller after their show in Las Vegas.  If you’ve ever seen this magician act, you know that Penn does all the talking while Teller never says a word.  As loud and demonstrative as Penn is – Teller is equally silent on stage. The mix is powerful!

Have you ever noticed the quietest people around you?  They are the:

  • Coworkers who don’t say much during meetings a work. However, when they do speak up, everyone pays attention.
  • People who work behind the scenes without a lot of commotion. When they take a few days of vacation, everyone panics until they return.
  • Salespeople who are present and really listen. You end up telling them all of your needs, the history of your purchases and practically your life story.

Sometimes the fewer words people say – the larger messages they convey. There is power in silence.

The “he who speaks first loses” philosophy is a negotiation tactic. The hope is that the silence will make the other party feel uncomfortable and continue talking, possibly revealing unfavorable information. The tactic can work. But once people discover you are waiting for them to slip up, they become guarded and stop all communications.

Instead, use this more positive approach to silence in your negotiation:

  • Ask open-ended questions instead of making statements. By asking a question you require the other person to formulate an answer and respond to you.  Ask questions to have others clarify their position. Then, listen patiently without helping them finish their sentences. Probe with more questions to separate issues from emotions.

  • Practice. Try this today. The next time you have a lull in the conversation with a friend, try to remain silent. Allow him/her to think or take a pause for a moment. Practicing silence is difficult! Once you are comfortable with quiet, you start listening for words which aren’t spoken.

  • Know what you want and what you think the other person might want. Before going into a negotiation, be clear on what a “win” is for you. Once you’ve achieved your objective – BE QUIET!  A natural response after a successful negotiation is to let off steam and/or create small talk. Don’t do it. Instead, politely part company, leave the room, or end the phone conversation.

May you find silent peace this season – may all be calm and may all be bright!

Journey On 

About Linda: A recognized authority on negotiations, workplace issues and strategic communication, Linda Byars Swindling, JD, CSP is an author, media expert, a “recovering” employment attorney, and a professional speaker.