It’s no coincidence that Listen and Silent are spelled with the same letters: 3 ways to use them both in your negotiations
“Listen, I have something to tell you.”
“Go ahead, I’m listening.”
In modern life, we seem to have replaced active listening with constant sharing and talking at one another through social media platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). We often say too much, and our written words are misunderstood or taken out of context. Constant oversharing as a habit creates problems, especially in negotiations when sharing too much can damage your position. When you say:
- “We need those parts in two weeks or the production line will shut down.”
- “I need you to give me two engineers or I won’t meet my deadline.”
- “If you can’t include transportation costs in the contract, I’ll blow through my budget.”
- “If the POs continue to come late, I won’t be able to meet my goals.”
They hear: “this is your problem, not mine”. And you may also be revealing weaknesses.
Negotiation is communication
Life is a series of negotiations. The communication required to come to an agreement, be it at work or at home, is a negotiation.
If you’re asking for something that you need, want or expect…you’re negotiating.
If someone is asking you for something that they need, want or expect…you’re negotiating.
It’s easy to make the mistake of pushing your own agenda rather than listening to what the other party has to say. We’re so used to sharing, we have to consciously move into listen mode if we want to get an agreement that solves both of our problems.
Using Silence as a way to shift the conversation
Alone Together: why we expect more from technology and less from one another by Sherry Turkle, is a book about the effects of social media and technology on the way we do and don’t connect. “Online, we fall prey to the illusion of companionship. We have hundreds of friends or followers, but are alone when it comes to emotional connection.” In this age of constant sharing, or talking through social media platforms, when we get face-to-face, we’ve forgotten how to listen. Silence, or listening, can be a powerful way to connect and a tool to leverage in your negotiations.
Here are three ways to use silence:
- Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence. – Leonardo da Vinci
Silence can be unsettling to the other party, especially when the conversation gets tense. You want one thing; the other party wants something different. Rather than talking back, use silence. The other party will read into your silence, but you haven’t actually said anything. Think of a disagreement you may have had with your child or anyone who feels like they need to have the last word. Let them have the last word. Be silent. Look at them. Wait. This kind of silence tends to make the other party restate their position, often to your advantage. In the face of silence, the tendency is to soften your position.
- Choose silence of all virtues, for by it you hear other men’s imperfections, and conceal your own. – George Bernard Shaw
Use silence to get answers. When you ask a question and give the other party ample time to answer, they will eventually fill the silence. As long as you don’t cave in and fill it yourself. This is especially useful when you ask a difficult question or one that you may feel the need to revise or soften. Don’t do it. It will feel uncomfortable. Again, wait. This kind of silence tends to make the other party feel as if they have to answer. When the ball is in their court, they will eventually feel the need to speak.
- Silence is golden when you can’t think of a good answer. – Muhammad Ali
Silence allows space to think. Asking tough questions can require some time to process a response. When you ask a question, allow the other party as much time as they need to respond. This can build trust because instead of sitting there thinking about your own next question, you are giving the other party the time they need to really think. When they do answer, listen carefully to their response. Then take a moment of silence for yourself if you need it to come up with your next question. If it’s based on their last response, they’ll be thinking “wow, that person really listened to me.” This kind of silence tends to make the other party feel as if you really care about what they have to say.
The bottom line: Silence is golden… literally.
Rephrase these examples from sharing too much (thus damaging your position) to using silence:
- SHARING TOO MUCH: “We need those parts in two weeks or the production line will shut down.”
- USING SILENCE: “We need those parts in two weeks.”
- SHARING TOO MUCH: “I need you to give me two engineers or I won’t meet my deadline.”
- USING SILENCE: “I need you to give me two engineers.”
- SHARING TOO MUCH: “If you can’t include transportation costs in the contract, I’ll blow through my budget.”
- USING SILENCE: “I need you to include transportation costs in the contract.”
- SHARING TOO MUCH: “If the POs continue to come late, I won’t be able to meet my goals.”
- USING SILENCE: “I need the POs to arrive two weeks before the ship date.”
Using silence as a form of listening is a powerful way to strengthen your position and move your negotiations forward.