Have you ever heard the old adage, “He who talks first loses”?
In negotiations, you never want to negotiate with yourself. When you make a statement or an offer, then you shut up. If you are uncomfortable with the silence necessary to hear the other offer, then you will speak up. You will end up negotiating with yourself. You don’t want to do that!
This is not about a win / lose situation. You want to get the other person to talk. Otherwise how will you learn what is important to the other person?
I remember one of the times I was let go. I was the VP of Human Resources. I knew that the President’s wife really liked me. She would not be happy when the boss went home and mentioned that he let me go. I suspected this gave me leverage. As we sat across the table to arrange a fair separation package I laid out my demands (requests). In creating my demands I included the typical elements and also some outrageous elements so the boss could find something to reject.
Then I shut up. This was hard for me. To focus my attention on something else so I would not keep talking, I tightly pinched the skin between my thumb and forefinger. I pinched so hard that I drew blood! But I did not talk! I waited while the boss contemplated the balance between what I asked for and the reaction he would get from his wife when he returned home. Finally, the boss spoke first. He agreed to all my outrageous requests except for one of the elements I threw in.
Because I shut up and waited and listened, I achieved the outcome I desired. You can do this too!
Let’s consider some situations when silence is important:
- Requesting something important to you like a raise or a job offer or a separation package. If you want something, make your case then shut up.
- Negotiating salary as a job seeker or with your current employer. If the boss asks what salary you seek, be prepared with a range. Say that range then shut up. Let the boss contemplate and consider.
- Asking for feedback. Feedback is important for self-improvement. Don’t substitute your judgement. Go to the very important person and ask for feedback. Shut up and listen. Then say thank you. You can ask clarifying questions if you are confused but mostly it is important to take the feedback back to a quiet place for contemplation.
- Working with a colleague on a complex project. You have an opinion. The other person has an opinion. Unless you state your point of view then shut up, how will you understand the other person’s point of view? Isn’t understanding the other point of view and important part of completing any project with another person or a team?
- Conflict resolution. Having a serious discussion, even a political discussion, is ripe for conflict. Silence is a useful tool to make space for listening and finding common ground to resolve conflict. The more you talk and force your opinion on someone else, the less you learn and the less likely you are to get your point across.
Don’t jabber. Don’t apologize for your point of view. That is not how you get what you want. That is also not how to create a win / win situation.
Listen. Allow for silence for contemplation and consideration. Allow the other person space to respond so you can work towards a win / win solution.
Sometimes this is hard. The Interview Doctor can be a sounding board for conflict resolution. After all, creating a win / win situation through effective use of silence can mean you get what you want!! And we all want that, right?