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Question, Propose, and Then Just Shut Up!
The Art of Effective Negotiation
The Weekly Walkaway highlights negotiation in its ‘good’, ‘bad’ and sometimes ‘downright ugly’ forms. Issue No. 46 (22nd September 2023)
What to expect?
Quotes of the Week - “Silence is the most perfect expression of scorn”
Tactic of the Week - The Silence
Thought of the Week - Question, Propose, and Then Just Shut Up.. (I know you were waiting for Episode 3 of Recruiters Are Sharks series.. that’s for next week)
Remember: You are a negotiator!
You are always managing some form of conflict, a difference of opinion or interest.
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QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“Silence is the most perfect expression of scorn”
George Bernard Shaw
“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”
TACTIC OF THE WEEK
It’s a cracker. The negotiation tactic ‘The Silence’ is very powerful, in fact it is one of the negotiators most powerful tools.
Becoming more comfortable in silence enables you to ‘GO’ silent during a negotiation in order to exploit and/or elicit a response or advantage from those who have not become more comfortable being uncomfortable. It gives you control.
Alongside a good flinch (a Non verbal response that says; “I’m disappointed in you”, “I’m disgusted with your proposal”, “Are you dumb?”) you can put pressure on the other party to make a concession or to fill the void with information that may be advantageous to you. The idea is to make the other party feel uncomfortable. ‘People’ generally hate silence and will buy back their comfort by ‘talking’.
Going silent is particularly effective when you use it after a good anchor, an extreme opener or a powerful question. The silence shows confidence, that you mean it.. You are strong and in control.
But silence can also be used for good. Knowing when to be silent allows a collaborator time and space to gather their thoughts, preventing you or them from making hasty emotional, unplanned, decisions that might go against the relationship or your objectives, and so ensuring ongoing cooperation not a change into competition. Take a time out..
THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
Question, Propose, and Then Just Shut Up
The Art of Effective Negotiation
I was with a team the other day, frustrated and tired, and in a very parental way told them to just QUESTION. PROPOSE AND THEN SHUT THE HELL UP! They were just giving away too much information and were selling, not negotiating. They were justifying and explaining everything.
One of the team members, bold as brass, challenged me. “Why? How am I going to manage my relationship and sell this new service in if I can’t just talk?”
So, why is this simple yet powerful mantra so important for effective negotiation?
We can all agree that Negotiation is an essential skill in both our personal and professional lives.
Whether you are haggling over a beautifully hand crafted mask in an African market, closing a multi million-euro business deal, or resolving conflicts within a team.. or even between your children… the ability to negotiate effectively makes all the difference.
Talking without purpose is not negotiation.
"Question. Propose. and Then Just Shut Up."
I stated in fact, that if my client could master these three basic elements then they'd become the most effective negotiators anywhere, anytime, and that they would have a much better chance of securing more of the tabled value in their multi-million deal.
Bold, but it's true. It is all about control!
So you all know that whether it's securing a business deal or making a major life decision, the ability to negotiate effectively significantly impacts your outcomes and the cornerstone of any successful negotiation is to question and propose appropriately (for the circumstances you find yourself in) and to then be silent; to listen and to remain in control.
The Power of Questioning. Negotiation begins with this fundamental skill - questioning
Questioning is not merely about asking any question; it involves strategic thought and planning. Questions serve as a crucial tool to;
shape the direction of the negotiation. You are not talking.. You are listening so you can steer the talks towards specific issues or away from contentious topics. If you control the conversation through strategic questioning, you remain in charge and therefore hold a stronger position to influence the direction of the talks. Use questioning to control the flow of the negotiation, navigate and steer the conversation in a direction that aligns with your agenda and stops you from giving too much information away;
extract valuable information about their perspective, priorities, and issues. Skilful questioning arms you with their potential areas of concession (movement) and / or leverage. This information is invaluable in shifting the balance of power and in crafting your proposals. Questioning reveals underlying interests and motivations. This is a question of position Vs interest. Sometimes, what is stated on the surface (POSITION) is not the true underlying concern (INTEREST). Through questioning you can reveal these hidden needs and create opportunities;
clarify issues and build rapport. Questions challenge assumptions and biases, preventing misunderstandings and miscommunications. They force both parties to clarify their positions and expectations and effective questioning demonstrates respect and a genuine interest in their perspective. Asking the right questions can be used to build rapport and trust. When they feel heard and understood, they are more likely to be open to sharing more information. What you do with that trust is up to you. Information is power. Power gives you options.
Without a thorough understanding of the situation and their needs it becomes… well, nearly impossible to reach mutually beneficial agreements and leaves you haggling in a street market.
So effective questioning is the foundation of effective negotiation and therefore begins with asking the right questions.
The Power of The Proposal - You know, the act of putting forward ideas, solutions, and offers
Making proposals is a proactive act that keeps the negotiation progressing towards agreement. Without proposals, without movement, the deal just grinds to a nasty, ugly, halt.
While questioning provides the groundwork, the proposals are the actions that lead to results. Therefore being able to craft and present firm, considered proposals is a pivotal element of effective negotiation. You get to;
create and control the negotiation momentum and demonstrate your power and confidence. Without proposals, negotiations stall or meander aimlessly. Proposing allows you to take charge of the process by introducing potential solutions. This proactivity compels the other party to respond, reciprocate and advance the negotiation;
frame and anchor the negotiation and manage the agenda and their expectations, allowing you to influence the direction of the talks. This control gives you the advantage, navigating the negotiation toward your objectives, initiating solutions, creating or distributing value, collaborating or competing;
move to test your assumptions, give satisfaction and employ the law of reciprocity. Use your proposals to observe and deduce their reactions. Did they flinch? Did they reject you? Their response to your proposal will reveal valuable information about their positions, their interests, their willingness to negotiate and their walkaway points. Moving allows you to test these assumptions whilst also giving satisfaction, giving them the feeling they are winning and ultimately enables you to make them move.. I’ve moved so you need to move to.
The Power of Silence may seem counterintuitive, but it is a powerful tool in negotiation
Consider this: “Silence can be more impactful than your words.”
Never underestimate the power you will find in your silence.
While questioning and proposing are active elements of negotiation, the art of "shutting up" is a passive yet highly potent tool. It is one of the most potent tools in your arsenal.
Knowing when to remain silent can be just as important as knowing when to speak. Silence empowers you. It enables you to;
take POWER and CONTROL. Talking too much leads to you making unnecessary and unplanned concessions or revealing too much information, information is power. Silence, on the other hand, allows you to maintain control and composure. Silence demonstrates patience and confidence. It shows that you are not in a rush and are willing to wait. It shows that ‘time’ is not your pressure, it must be theirs. This gives you the perception of power. It gives you control;
manage your Lucy, the chimpanzee in your head. You can use silence to manage your emotions and also control theirs. You can;
FAFS = Flinch. Assess. Frame. Send. This creates control and ensures you stick to your plan and do not allow emotional triggers to manipulate or exploit you;
defuse tense moments and emotional outbursts. Take time outs and allow time to compose and approach the negotiation with a clearer mind and to control the pace of the discussion. Or allow silence to fill the room to give them time to reflect on your question or offer. This reflection will lead to a more thoughtful, more considered, responses;
make them feel uncomfortable in the dark hole that is ‘SILENCE’... [echo echo echo). Use silence to exploit them… their fear of the dark void.
consider, take your time and make them move, to concede. When you remain silent, you create space for the other party to talk, to make counter offers, concessions and to give you information. People hate silence. They feel compelled to fill the silence, fill the dark void, with their voice. Being silent also prevents you from overcommitting or making hasty decisions. Silence provides you the space for careful consideration. By staying silent, you give yourself time to think and avoid making rash decisions.
SO… SHUT UP
So What! Well it's all about Control.
Question. Propose and Then Just Shut Up creates a continuous negotiation cycle that gives YOU CONTROL.
Whether you're competing (The Eastern Negotiator) or Cooperating (The Western Negotiator) the ability to question, propose, and use silence remains invaluable.
You start with questioning to gather information, proceed with proposing to move the negotiation along, and then use silence strategically to get the other party to respond. Rinse and Repeat until you reach agreement.
"Question, Propose, and Shut Up" are the core principles of effective negotiation. As I made clear to my client, who started me on this post.
“Master these three elements and you’ll be the most effective negotiator, irrespective of the context or who is involved.”
Questioning serves as the foundation, enabling you to understand, to take control.
Proposing allows you to shape the negotiation, work towards your objective and take control.
And embracing silence allows you to control yourself, them and the negotiation.
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