Friday, November 27, 2009

Caveat Lectores on the Value of Silence

Many years ago, I worked for a very large corporation as a fledgling sales person. This company placed great value on training its operatives. They trained us well, paid us well and expected us to perform well. During the sales training we received, we were given some advice I remember to this day and have shared this advice with my students at USF in the labor negotiation class and to clients as well.

In a negotiation, “He who controls the silence controls the action.”

This valuable negotiation tool is seldom used because controlling one’s need to fill the air with noise is overcoming to most untrained negotiators. Please consider the following:

• Silence makes people uncomfortable. We expect to hear noise all around us all the time. When someone makes an offer in a negotiation, they expect a response. When the immediate response is silence, it puts them off rhythm. Many times they will make another offer just because they cannot endure the silence. It called bidding against yourself. A prime no-no in negotiation. Remember, he who controls the silence controls the action. Of course, someone has to eventually speak or nothing gets negotiated but do not be in a hurry to be the first one to break the silence.
• Listen more and talk less. If you are listening you are silent. Asking pertinent question then patently listening to the response is not a passive act. It requires work. Asking the right questions encourages the other side to say what is on their mind. It lets you find out what they want from the negotiation. In order to get your needs met, you must meet their needs as well. Remember, he who controls the silence controls the action. The person who is asking the question has control of the negotiation at that point and should be learning things that will aid in the process.
• Control your words when you do speak. Negotiation is a sport much like professional wrestling is a sport. Each done successfully is a drama well rehearsed and conducted by people who know that they are doing or they would hurt each other much more than they do by accident. Make every word count for what it should mean, not what it would mean if you were in total control of the words. Negotiation is all about the words and the other side’s response to the words spoken. Words spoken cannot be unsaid.
• Control the non-spoken words. Body language can say more good and bad about your reaction to the other side’s offerings than words. Learn what the various body language indicators tell your adversary, and then learn to control your non-spoken words. Poker players call them “Tells.” Body language is the subject of another Caveat Lectores rant saved for another day.

Professional negotiators are skilled and able to do what it takes to get the job done. Silence can be the most valuable tool in a negotiator’s bag of tricks.

Remember, he who controls the silence controls the action.

And Oh yes, have a nice day?


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