Negotiating Tactics—Time, Rhythm, Silence & Ego
an integral role in every negotiation. Tactics are different than
strategy. Don’t confuse the two. Strategy is your overall plan to
achieve your objectives. Strategy requires thinking and is planned
ahead of time.
Tactics, on the other hand, are employed in the moment. Tactics are
applied in response to the current situation, to the dialogue and the
personalities involved. Tactics require observation; they are not
planned. An experienced negotiator will have a wide assortment of
tactics to draw on and use at the right moment.
Time is a type of power. And
power is important in every negotiation. Time can work for you or it
can work against you. The savvy negotiator understands the nuances of
time. He or she will make tactical moves based on an appreciation of
time and its constraints.
consider time in the context of negotiations, they generally think of
deadlines. Sometimes deadlines are a ticking clock. Can you adjust your
deadline to give your side more flexibility? People are very aware of
their own deadlines. But consider also the other party’s deadlines.
What are their time pressures?
There are three
dimensions of time that impact negotiations—rhythm, silence and
Every negotiation develops its
own rhythm. Rhythm is the timing and tempo of the back and forth of
exchange. Get in tune with the rhythm of the negotiation. What is the
rhythm of your particular situation?
comfortable with the rhythm? Should you break the rhythm? Don’t respond
too quickly. Think about the most advantageous time to bring up issues.
You don’t want to ask for things at inappropriate times. Don’t rush the
negotiation. Don’t push it. Negotiations are a dance and rhythm is
important in every dance.
negotiator senses the rhythm of the interchange. Sometimes he or she
continues in the same rhythm and sometimes he purposely changes the
rhythm. This is where deal judgment comes into play.
Silence is a pause. A pause is
a subset of time. The pause can be a formidable tool.
fast-paced times, we have lost the genius of silence. How do you handle
silence? Do you rush in with something to say? Or do you relax and feel
the tempo? Sometimes it is best not to say anything. Enjoy the silence.
When you are
silent, you can’t help but listen more. And listening is a key
negotiating skill because you learn more about the other party, about
their issues, problems and needs.
After you have
asked a question, especially when it is something you really want to
know, ask and then be quiet. Wait for their answer. Don’t worry about
filling the void. If you have suggested a price, sit back and wait.
This may feel uncomfortable but for the savvy negotiator it is an
Silence is a
powerful negotiating tactic. Know when to use it. And don’t overuse it.
Sometimes silence is uncomfortable. Silence can put pressure on the
is a Virtue
Patience is a reaction to time.
Patience conveys strength and strength is good in any negotiation.
Patience is also a type of power.
In the world of
technology companies, I have found that many tech CEOs are anything but
patient. They want to respond quickly, give their answer right now.
They want to ask the next question immediately. These may be good
tactics for building a business but they are not effective negotiation
means having flexibility regarding time. This is related to walking
away, which is the ultimate negotiating power. When the stakes are
high, it is even more important to be patient. A negotiator in a hurry
is a negotiator likely to make mistakes.
Ego is not a tactic per se, but
it is an area around which many tactics emerge. Egos are powerful
things and they can have a dramatic impact on a negotiation. Be keenly
aware of ego, both your own ego and your opponent’s ego. Never discount
First, keep your
own ego in check. Simply take it out of the equation. Do not let
anything upset you. Be unflappable. Don't take things personally. It
requires discipline and practice to not take things personally. This is
why a third party negotiator can be more effective—because people do
take things personally.
Second, pay close
attention to the other party’s ego. It may sneak in there in subtle
ways. You may be able to use this to your advantage. If a person
inserts his or her ego into the negotiation, they become more one
dimensional and less flexible. They become less willing to change and
less open to new ideas.
negotiator can use this to his or her advantage because they will know
exactly where the other party is coming from. You will know how they
will likely respond to your proposals. You can craft your points in
such a way that the other person will accept them. You may be able to
make stronger demands in certain areas.
Contrast this to
negotiating with someone who is changeable, flexible and more like a
chameleon. You never know where that person is coming from. It is
difficult to pin them down. This gives them an advantage.
As an experienced
negotiator, I find it amusing to deal with the multitude of personality
types. If a person inserts their ego or is difficult to deal with, I
figure a way to work around it. Don’t let a personality get in the way.
Roll with it and use it to your advantage.
In my many years of
negotiating, I have noticed that people sometimes use tactics that are
not appropriate for a particular situation. Or, they fail to use
tactics that could have been effective. The experienced negotiator will
use the right tactics at the right time.