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Negotiation Tip # 2: Listen

Negotiation Tip # 2: Listen
Pat Dickson - Tue May 22, 2012 @ 06:52AM
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When you are at the negotiation table, before you open your mouth, Listen. Remember, there is a reason you have two ears and one mouth. Wait! You may protest. You already made this point, if not nearly word for word. You already used this two-ears-and-one-mouth argument in Negotiation Tip # 1: Silence. You are partially correct. Being Silent and Listening are very close cousins, but there is a subtle difference. And even if there is no difference, and I am being redundant, I believe Silence/Listening to be so important this potentially reflective duality is worth repeating. Nevertheless, I will at least attempt distinction:

Being Silent basically keeps you from putting your foot in your mouth. Listening allows you to discover exactly why you are in trouble. This way you are in a better position to say the right thing once you have been open-eared long enough. When you finally open your mouth at the appropriate time, the right words come out of it.

Remember the example from before where the husband was in trouble with his wife and assumed he knew why? He was not Silent, so he immediately put his foot in his mouth by apologizing for what he had said about her mother at the party. Had he not opened his big mouth too soon, by embracing his ears and not his vocal chords, Silence would have saved him. Had he let his wife do the talking, by Listening, he would have quickly discovered she was only mad because he had not done the dishes the night before. She didn't even know about what he had said about her mother at the party - not until he prematurely opened his mouth. His lack of Silence resulted in the creation of a second problem much worse than the first.

Now we see how being Silent keeps your foot out of your mouth. It gives you a chance to discover your neglected dishwashing duties are the cause of your wife's ire, not your public scorn of her mother. Knowing this helps you prevent the problem of inadvertently fessing up to the wrong thing (of course we will explore the ethics of withholding such information for future discussion). Listening allows you to say and do the right thing once you have narrowed the issues down to why, exactly, you are in trouble. Listening helps you arrive at the most favorable resolution once the problem is clearly defined.

Put another way, in reference to our dishwashing dispute hypothetical, Silence and Listening allow you to make just two statements which maximize your negotiation and settlement results:

1. Silence = Learning the exact nature of the problem, and then apologizing: "Honey, I'm sorry I didn't do the dishes."

2. Listening = Asking, "What can I do to make things right?" and then opening your ears to discover exactly what you need to do. 

"You big dummy! All I want is for you to do the dishes! Can't you get that through your thick skull?"

You respond, "Yes dear, it won't happen again."

Listen. There is a reason you have two ears and one mouth.

Negotiation Tip # 3

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