A Case of Listening: When Silence Is GoldenDevine, W. (2002, September 30). Anatomy of a deal-maker. California Real Estate Journal. Retrieved November 14, 2008 from http://www.wdesquire.com/pages/dealmaker.html.
Listening can be an effective tool during negotiations. William Devine was representing a client on a land purchase. “The owner and I spent 2 hours on the phone horse-trading contract issues, then turned to the price,” Devine explained. “We were $100,000 apart.” The owner then said, “The price your client proposes will leave us well short of our projections. That makes it very tough on us.” The line went silent.
“My impulse was to say something in response to the silence, and I started to speak, then stopped. As I hesitated, I sensed that if I said, ‘My client can pay all cash,’ or ‘It’s still a good deal for you,’ then the owner would take my comment as an invitation to joust, we would battle over the hundred grand, and my client would end up having to pay some or all of that sum. The owner had not asked a question or proposed a compromise, so no response was required from me at that moment. I decided to remain silent. After what felt like days but was probably less than 30 seconds, I heard, ‘But I guess it’s good for us [i.e., his company] to just get this deal done, so we’ll do it.’”
Devine saved his client $100,000 by staying silent.
Questions to Think About
1. What does this case suggest about the role of silence in negotiations?
2. Have you ever had a similar experience when saying nothing paid off?
3. Are there times when silence is a bad idea? Explain your answer.