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Don’t Underestimate Your Position

One of the most common mistakes in a negotiation is underestimating your position. Giving away power. The best way to avoid underestimating your position is preparation. Gather as much information as you can about your counterpart. Sit with someone in a mock negotiation.   Take the position of your counterpart. Understand the constraints, wants, needs, must have points from the position of your counterpart. Bridge of Spies photo

A recent Tom Hanks movie “Bridge of Spies” gives a perfect demonstration of the benefit of  understanding your counterpart’s position. Right up to the last minute exchange of spies  – Mr Donovan [Tom Hanks] holds strong to his position. He delays the exchange. Clearly he understood the constraints, wants and must have position of his counter part. This movie also gives a perfect demonstration of the power of silence.

It’s a good movie. A reminder “don’t underestimate your position”.


He who speaks first loses

Linda Byars recently posted this article in her newsletter.  A great recap on using the power of silence as a negotiation tactic.

“Some people use a “he who speaks first loses” philosophy as a negotiation tactic. They hope silence will make the other party feel uncomfortable and continue talking, possibly revealing unfavorable information. The tactic can work. However, 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:

power of silence

• 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.

A recognized authority on negotiations, workplace issues and strategic communication, Linda Byars Swindling, JD, CSP is an author, a “recovering” employment attorney, and a Certified Speaking Professional. To book Linda to speak at your event contact Zan Jones by email or phone at (214) 536-6666.”

Gender Pay Gap

Do you find it challenging to stay current on the news? Gender pay gap for example. Isn’t that old news?

Nope. The conversation is growing.

Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao responds in the Hollywood Reporter to critics of the no-negotiation salary policy she instituted in an attempt to close the pay gap (based on the premise that women are less likely to negotiate for higher pay). While some said the policy would stop women from gaining negotiating experience, Pao maintains that it was a worthwhile tradeoff for removing the risk of unfair pay.

The newsletter by  Kristen Bellstrom “Fortune The Broad Sheet” comes highly recommended as quick read on key topics. A panel of executive business women pointed to The Broad Sheet when asked how they stay in touch with current events.

How do you stay current on the news?

Ego – does it impact your negotiations?

Splash Stars Ego photo-1444703686981-a3abbc4d4fe3One big mistake professionals often make assuming the negotiation process is a rational and logical one. You will find negotiating often turns into an emotional game. People make decisions because  of ego, fear, greed, or even a need to please.

how do you take ego out of the equation? Start by avoiding “I” Statements. Instead of starting with “I want this and I want that” talk instead about how ‘we need to reach a solution,’ it’s a very different approach. It doesn’t gratify your ego requirements, but it reaches a much better deal.

Patrick J Cleary points out in his book Negotiation Handbook that those who are comfortable leaving their ego baggage at the door will ultimately prevail. Why? Because they can see through the haze of ego to the merits of the deal. The best negotiators focus their interest in getting a deal, and they do.

Beware of Blame

It’s not my fault. She just wouldn’t budge. She had more power. It’s easy to cast blame or give away your leverage to your counterpart. Studies show that negativity is more common in less skilled negotiators.  Compared to skilled negotiators, average negotiators cast blame three times as much, consider half the creative options, look for common ground less, share less information, and make more gratuitous comments that irritate the other side.


What does it take to be a good negotiator? Focus on other people, identify what they need so you can meet their needs in exchange for what you need. Bottom line  – more negativity, less negotiation success.

Negotiation Obstacles

One of the biggest obstacles in any negotiation is a “failure to plan”. You can be your own worst enemy. If you become caught up in your goals, your constraints, your needs you will fail to adequately prepare for the negotiation. When you focus on yourself you are not thinking about the goals, constraints and needs of your counterpart. You may find yourself disappointed with the outcome of your negotiation if you haven’t carefully considered the negotiation from your counterparts point of view. Negotiation is an interactive process. The best deals develop over time.

Do you take time to think about what a great deal would look like for your counterpart? Try asking meaningful questions so you can find ways to create value.  Professor Susskind Vice Chair of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School said “Many people inadvertently shut the door to value-creating possibilities by failing to engage in cooperative behaviors, because they fear it makes them look weak.” 

Can you name a example where you considered your counterparts goals and created value in a negotiation?

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?


How to Negotiate Nicely Without Being a Pushover – HBR

Harvard Business Review
“We all want it both ways: to get what we want from a tough negotiation and to walk away with our relationship intact. The good news is that kind of outcome is possible. But how exactly do you drive a hard bargain while also employing soft skills? How do you advocate for what you want without burning important bridges?” Read more:  How to Negotiate Nicely Without Being a Pushover – HBR.

Capitalize on Differences

“Capitalize on differences… smile when you are negotiating and you have differences with your counterpart.”  You will strike the best deals when you identify and quantify the differences in interests. Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks said it best in this 90 second video.

When you negotiate like a professional you use a process that includes identifying a wish list for your counter part. Professionals note and quantify these items. Ask a lot of questions, listen carefully, and concentrate on what the other party is trying to accomplish. You will uncover their wish list items. As the negotiation develops you have this list to choose from and may offer concessions. You will strike the best deal when you identify and quantify the items on their wish list. You can offer trades for items that cost you little [or nothing] and mean a great deal to your counter part.

If the idea of creating a wish list is something new for you. Consider using something like this negotiation roadmap to document and track your next negotiation.

Download RoadMap.