The Sound of Silence – a power tool

One of the big questions in any negotiation is “Who has more power, the buyer or the seller?” Using silence is one simple way to find out.  Consider using it in your next face to face negotiation.  When your counterpart makes an offer or presents a proposal he expects you to respond. When you don’t, it puts him in an uncomfortable position.

When it is your turn to respond, consider staying silent. Let your counterpart fill the gaping hole in the conversation. Silence is uncomfortable. It is natural to want to fill it with something. Let your counterpart do the talking. He may indicate time constraints he facing, you may discover who the real decision maker is, or how much flexibility there is in the budgePower of Silencet. He might even talk himself into giving you a better deal.

One of my clients, a professional copy-writer, had a conversation with one of her client’s during the bid proposal review. “We never pay that much for copy-writer service” the marketing manager said. The writer responded with a brief reminder of her editorial experience in addition to specialized experience and knowledge in writing the type of sto
ry they needed.  Then she stopped talking.  Her client filled the void with reasons why it couldn’t be done. Still the writer remained silent. Before the conversation ended the client had increased the contract by 25%. Silence is a power tool.

Here are three tips to help you leverage the power of silence in your negotiation conversations:

1.Practice. Try the silence technique in the next regular conversation with a friend or spouse. Time yourself. How long can you remain silent. Get comfortable with it.

2.Use body language that says you are engaged. Face your counter part and look them in the eyes for the first few seconds then reference your notes. Read the note you wrote to yourself that says “DON’T TALK’’.

3.If you just can’t resist the urge to speak, after at least 10 seconds, ask a clarifying question. For example:

Repeat the offer: “You are proposing an offer of $1200 / month?”

Ask clarifying question: “Let me see if I understand what you are saying…”

Challenge the offer:  “Help me understand why you think that offer is reasonable?”

One of the best tools for getting more information is silence. Relax. Be still. Wait. Let your counterpart fill the gap with valuable information.

Use clarifying questions when YOU break the silence.  You can find a list of Questions that Help Clarify [written by Vandra L Huber] and other valuable negotiation resources on []

Soon you will have mastered the power of silence. The next big question is “What happens when my counterpart uses silence on me?”

Have you used this technique? Have you had someone use it on you?