Despite it’s headline bravado as The Only Guide to Negotiation You Will Ever Need, this Inc. cover story is actually a very good synthesis of key negotiating situations and techniques covered in several seminal books on the topic. Rob Walker pieces together the pros and cons weighed by the authors, pulling examples and comparing styles in a nicely comprehensive summary.
In fact, practically everyone endorses out-and-out silence. Let’s say you’re faced with an opponent who behaves irrationally; resist the temptation to respond in kind, counsels Getting to Yes . You might counter with a question (“How did you arrive at that figure?”) or you might not counter at all. “Silence is one of your best weapons….The best thing to do may be to just sit there and not say a word.” Cohen agrees: “You often force the other person to talk, if only out of discomfort” — and that person is likely to revise his or her position and reveal useful information in the process.
Questions, the experts suggest, are useful for fending off someone else’s question that you’re not prepared to answer. (It’s tempting to imagine two negotiators stuck on the crucialness of queries, sinking into an infinite loop of statement avoidance.) And they are useful in figuring out what the other side’s logic is — meaning that you should ask questions even when you think you know the answer. Shell cites studies showing that the most successful negotiators also happen to be the most persistent question-askers — and listeners. “You often get more by finding out what the other person wants than you do by clever arguments supporting what you need.” As he later adds, “It almost never hurts to talk less.”