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  • Alessandra Corrêa

The use of silence as a negotiating tactic.*

Atualizado: 7 de jul. de 2023

Negotiation requires preparation and planning. A strategy-only approach to planning is insufficient. It is necessary to prepare for the exchanges and conversations that occur during each negotiation round, whether via text, voice calls, video call platforms, or face-to-face. Preparing for conversations involves the use of several communication techniques. Among them is a powerful tool that is often overlooked: silence.

It's fascinating to observe the dynamics of our conversations. There are few pauses, and the flow of question and answer, comment and reply is almost continuous. As a result of this culture, most of us are uncomfortable when one side takes a break.

However, once the discomfort has been overcome, this break can be an ally. It has the potential to provide us with numerous advantages.

First, by asking and then waiting for the other person to respond, we demonstrate that we value what our interlocutor has to say. Still, remaining silent during the other party's response or rejoinder shows that we are listening to what is being said to us.

If used correctly, silence can help us assimilate the content shared by the other, as well as understand their body language and facial expressions. And in the trading world, all information is valuable.

Second, silence provides an excellent opportunity to avoid common cognitive biases. Being aware of the biases that can influence us in each situation is an important step, but combining this with some time to think increases the likelihood of being able to avoid or, at the very least, mitigate the effects of these biases.

Another important function of silence is that it is a great response to a negative comment or an attack made by the other side. In these situations, silence communicates our dissatisfaction without requiring us to make a more obvious defense or attack, which would most likely create tension that we would struggle to undo.

A similar situation occurs when the opposing party anchors aggressively. Silence can be used to demonstrate our discomfort during phone conversations or even video conferencing. In that case, we should anchor immediately after the pause, keeping in mind that debating the other person's aggressive anchor will only strengthen it.

Another important benefit of attentive listening is that it instills confidence in our interlocutor. And trust is a strong foundation for successful negotiations.

Finally, silence allows us to shift our perspective and try to see the situation through the eyes of someone who is not involved in the problem. This movement is described by William Ury as follows: imagine you are an actor in a play and, for a few moments, you are also a spectator in a box. "Going to the cabin" is a powerful tool that can help us understand our attitude toward others, as well as our actions and reactions. This analysis allows us to make changes to the conversation as it progresses.

Because our culture values uninterrupted flow in a conversation, silence must be deliberate.

Another effect of this culture is our discomfort with silence. We must practice to overcome this discomfort. Just as an athlete trains before a big game, we must train in conversations and less important situations so that our silence does not bother us and becomes more natural in big situations.

By Alessandra P G Corrêa

*The text was first published in Portuguese on the Head Energy blog.

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