Have you ever attended a session on public speaking? One of the top things public speaking coaches focus on are the filler words that you use. Words like Um, You know, So. Words that have no real meaning except to fill space while you think. Think about why you need to fill that space? What does this have to do with a Negotiation Technique you ask?
The Impact of the Pregnant Pause On Yourself and Others
Take this a step further. Get in a conversation with someone you know and for no reason just simply stop talking and stare at them for a minute. Probably your friend will ask you what is wrong if you haven’t pre-warned them of your experience. So why is this? Culturally, most people from the US and Europe have an aversion to pauses. We subconsciously view them as a sign that someone is unhappy with us or disagrees. When we commit a pregnant pause we fear the other person will perceive us as being unhappy with them. We naturally avoid these situations.
The Pregnant Pause, A Case Study
Other cultures do not necessarily have this particular subconscious aversion. When I got my MBA, I took a class on global business. The class focused on dealing with other cultures for negotiation and business purposes. This has come in very useful over the years for my career, but that is for another post. In this case, I’m more interested in a story the teacher told about Japan.
The Japanese culture is very tolerant of a pause. A pause in a sentence contains no significant meaning in their culture. If we venture back to the 1980s when Japan was an economic powerhouse, US companies were constantly working on mergers, joint ventures, and other business arrangements with their Japanese counterparts. So goes the story that the Japanese businesses often times ended up with the negotiating upper hand as a result of their usage of the pause. An offer would be made by an American businessman to which the Japanese businessman would not respond immediately. The lack of response to the Japanese was simply a normal way of conversions. Meanwhile, to the American it was viewed as a decline of an offer or other such hesitation. The natural response was for the American business man to sweeten the deal to keep the Japanese Company on the hook for the purchase. In this way the Japanese tended to get the upper end in business deals and were viewed as shrewd negotiators.
The Pause as a Negotiation Technique
Now, former posts have touched on important negotiating techniques like having patience, identifying someone with the greatest need, and ensuring they know they have competition. To this we can add one more tool to our negotiation arsenal, the pause. Give it a try, the next time you’re negotiating and the offer is not quite what you’re looking for, pause for 20-30 seconds before responding. Chances are good if you’re in a western speaking country and the other person is willing to give you a better offer, they will do so.
One final note, the pause is also great for presentations, and executive presence. Always try to replace Uhs and Ums with a simple pause while you collect your thoughts. This will improve your public speaking presence throughout your career.
Do you have any negotiation techniques?