Silence As A Negotiating Tactic

Everyone is gathered around the table, the stakes are high, tensions fills the air as the other person layouts a detailed counter-proposal for your consideration. What to do. Everyone is hanging on your reaction, waiting, expecting a response.

When your proposal or offer is countered you have three obvious options. You can accept, reject, or counter. You also have two additional options that are seldom considered but are frequently worthy strategies. You can 1) simply sit back and do nothing or you can 2) ask for a break to consider the terms.
Persuasion Techniques
Doing nothing causes a pregnant silence. Often the other person will feel compelled to fill the void. Your silence is telegraphing that you are not entirely happy with the proposal. If the other person offers to improve or modify the proposal or if he becomes otherwise uncomfortable with the silence, he is signaling that he has room to negotiate further. Either reaction helps you decide which of the first three options you should pursue.

Asking for a break is another form of the silence tactic. It also signals that you have issues with the counter proposal. Watch how the other person reacts to your taking a break. If he or she appears anxious or ill at ease, it likely means that there is room to negotiate further. If instead the person appears uninterested and willing to delay for an extended time, it may mean that he or she has reached a final position and it is up to you to accept or reject the offer.

In either case, you have the opportunity to qualify how firm their counter proposal is by deploying either of these tactics. If, instead, you choose from the first three, you lose the opportunity. Learn to deploy and use silence as a negotiating tactic. The timing of your response signals a lot of information. Be aware of what a prompt or delayed response means to the other person and selectively use a variety of timed responses to send the signal you want to send rather than reveal what you are thinking at the moment.

Ironically, the art of negotiating is most required when you are presented with an offer that is acceptable. The dilemma is in knowing if it is the best you can do and if it is time to stop negotiating and accept the terms.
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While you do not want to needlessly leave anything on the table, you do not want to over negotiate and risk losing the opportunity to come to an agreement. Understanding the difference in your wants and needs and being able to place these in perspective with what you have learned about the "marketplace value" of the currencies involved enables you to know when you have "won enough." "Marketplace value" is much more than the monetary value of a commodity or service. When valuing something always take into account the currencies of time, convenience, need and risk. Also try to assess the other person's unique/personal situation relating to the item, transaction or service.

Personal need or desire usually enhances actual value and can be used to leverage ancillary concessions. the use of silence as a negotiating tactic can bring out the extraordinary interest the other person may have in the negotiation.