Hadn’t we often wished we haven’t said something to someone ? You can ask for an instant apology and even strive to explain you didn’t really mean what you had said. But then you’ve lost the advantage of covert intentions since a shrewd listener would’ve tracked it down. Things are never the same.
In business, just as in other life situations, such occasions are guaranteed embarrassments. Outcome of critical decisions often hinge on spontaneous (in)discretion whether to react or hold back on specific occasions – be it negotiating terms of a routine service agreement with vendors or while walking tightrope on a valuation issue with a prospective acquirer or seller. By intelligently punctuating the negotiation stages with occasional interludes of silence, clever negotiators get what they want. Tom Evslin has nicely illustrated a few such instances here.
A little analysis of the power of silence itself.
We can’t speak about silence. By that, we disturb it. For most of us it’s really difficult to remain silent when another talks to us since we need to disprove Newton’s third law. Some situations demand exactly that just yet. How do we create that silence (a living, vibrant one and not of the eerie kind as in a graveyard) in us ?
The silence I seek to build is that of an enlightened master. To get there, we need to know what could stop us along the way. First off, we don’t trust our ability to experience it. We think, this is not for us. Why not ? This is the property of the universe and rightfully belongs to us. You need only be alive and seeking. Secondly, shed the guilt in us and start respecting ourselves. Stop measuring us by our failures and try remembering the good things that we’ve done to others and for ourselves. The memories of good things evoke significant positive energy and that is the strength of our being. Third, understand what enlightenment means. It just means knowing your true self by consulting your conscience as often as you can in practically every thing you say and do. Soon you’ll realize not a thing you say or do that is not supported by your conscience. You are enlightened.
Words can have the opposite effect if left unsaid too. Almost as if they were spoken as opposites. Silence can equal the opposite. “I love you” unsaid can become “I don’t love you” out loud. This calls for application of discretion – another art by itself.
Hovering over the outcomes of life events when we had said or unsaid something and drawing lessons help develop an innate sense of discretion in us. The entire process is quickened. At the next decision point, the process becomes almost automatic. We synthesize all the available data and lay down all options we have. We go over each of these options with our colleagues and trace out what’s in the firm’s best interest. Then we develop different scenarios of the negotiations in our mind and decide whether to react (if so, how) or not, to each of such situations. All these processes concurrently questioned and debated internally with our conscience and that which seem to be downright deal breakers are eliminated. While being tough, we don’t let go off that deal.
The best negotiators are those who seem fair to all even as they end up with a clear edge. Evslin says it’s not enough to win negotiations, it’s important to win in its right dimension – don’t just settle for some crumbs when you can win the loaf !