Silence is one of the simplest yet most powerful negotiation tools, but it has traditionally positioned itself as an intimidation tactic that prompts a person to speak up for their loss.
New research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology has found that pausing for at least three seconds during a conversation has many benefits beyond just making someone uncomfortable.
In a series of studies in which negotiations imitated pay negotiations, Jared Kurhan, an associate professor of work and organization studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and colleagues found that this extended but brief silence marked a “shift from default”. facility can be provided. Zero-sum thinking for a more reflective, thoughtful mindset, which, in turn, is likely to lead to the identification of golden opportunities,” concludes their paper.
In other words, when a person pauses to think during a conversation, it can help them see the conversation as more of a tug of war and lead the discussion to a favorable outcome.
Why a strategic 3-9 second silence is so effective
In the first study, participants recruited from a university in the US were randomly assigned to a job candidate or recruit. The candidate and the recruiter then had to negotiate issues related to the employment compensation package of the candidate.
When there was a silence between three and nine seconds during the conversation, the researchers found that “a-ha” moments were more likely to occur for out-of-the-box solutions and successes.
“Each side makes a concession on the issue that they care a little less, and in return, they get something back on the issue that they care about a little more, so the net gain is for both parties to make that trade.” of these successes,” said Qurhan. “I think the silence is making people go ‘Hmm, is there any other way we can move on here?
Why at least three seconds but not more than nine?
“We suspect, but we can’t prove that the reason for a particular window is to wait long enough to be really helpful, but not to wait so long as to be awkward,” Kurhan told HuffPost.
“It is often the romantic idea that great negotiators are these very smart people and they always know exactly what to say… [but] Sometimes it’s better to say, ‘I’ll get back to you on that.'”
–Jared Kurhan, associate professor of function and organization studies at MIT
Of course, whether silence is considered strange may be culturally specific. In a Dutch study, four seconds of silence was enough to trigger negative feelings such as rejection, while a study analyzing conversational silence between US and Japanese bank executives found that Japanese business leaders averaged five seconds per minute. seconds of silence. conversation, while the Americans produced less than a second of silence per minute.
It can be especially helpful for managers to employ reflective silence during stressful job negotiations. In a study conducted by Qurhan and his colleagues, the position difference between candidate and recruiter was emphasized. Each candidate became an independent consultant out of school, and each recruiter was appointed a chief operating officer. In this context, independent consultants felt less comfortable initiating silence to negotiate, while COOs were “Being more reflective and conversational contributed to these combined benefits,” Kurhan said.
The researchers speculate that this is because people in more junior roles worry about violating the criterion of giving quick, direct answers to more high-status colleagues. If you’re in a standoff with someone who’s especially junior, recognize that they may need a break to think about ways to move forward, but are less likely to initiate it.
How to Apply Silence in Your Own Salary Negotiations
When someone is put on the spot during a job conversation, they may feel pressured to respond quickly. The takeaway in the study for job candidates, Kurhan said, is to take it slow.
“It’s often the romantic view that great negotiators are these very smart people and they always know exactly what to say,” Kurhan said. “But really, if someone uses a tough tactic on you … it’s often better to say, ‘I’ll get back to you on that,’ or ‘I’ll need to think about it,’ because many Bar you’ll respond better over time to the heat of the moment than the heat of the moment. I see this research as a microcosm of that effect.”
If you find yourself overwhelmed during job negotiations, take three to nine seconds of breath to gather your thoughts about what benefits you’re willing to settle on and what aren’t. This could be the perfect trick to get the ball rolling again.