Artful Negotiation

“Silence is one of the great arts of conversation.”
– Marcus Tullius Cicero

In Part One, The Quality of Being, Silence was in the setting of personal benefits for our inner life. Part Two will address applications and advantages of Silence to serve us when advocating for ourselves or our causes.




In the game of chess, the original placement of the pieces on the board is the strongest defensive position. Of course, there is no game without a first move. Bobby Fischer, one of the greatest Grandmasters of all time, said; “Since the rules require a move on his turn, the player is forced to weaken his position.”

We can equate the moving of a chess piece to speaking in a negotiation. Like a chess master, we must be mindful of every move that both we and our opponent makes and its future implications for various possibilities.


Despite the countless books and articles published on the inner game of negotiation, blunders occur all the time. If this essay presents one point that you have not previously discovered or reminds you to use silence effectively, then it is well worth the effort.

When negotiating, what is not said is often more pertinent than what is. It takes a thoughtful person to consider their words wisely and a strong mind to maintain conscious self-control while speaking.

The focus of this paper is on aspects of negotiation concerning business deal making. Hopefully, this essay will help you expand your ideas and refresh your negotiating skill.

Before the Meeting:

1. – Accumulate current and up-to-date knowledge of your opponents strengths and weaknesses.

Be sure to ask around. Find out what they’re up to. Future plans may have an effect on your deal. It’s amazing what I learned about Google’s future plans last week while on a tour of their Manhattan headquarters. It’s the little guys that will give you the skinny, not the savvy leaders.

2. – Figure out what they really want. How urgent is their desire.

For example: They may be downplaying their interest in buying your building, but what you don’t know is that they already own the remainder of the block in a secondary holding company and are planning to build a strip mall.

 3. – Never underestimate your opponent, they may be holding a trump card.

It can be:

A. Information or soon to be news that is not available to the public right now.

B. Knowledge of another deal contingent on this one happening.

C. A personal connection, unknown allies, or a favor owed.

D. Yes, it could be anything!

4. – Know what you want and what your bottom line is.

Often, you will be asked for your bottom line. Never disclose your actual bottom because this is what you will get. Your bottom line needs to be what you will accept to be happy with the deal.

5. – Have some contingencies, compromises, and counter-offers in your back pocket.

Have numbers ready for counter-offers. Always be ready with all sorts of alternative offers to make the deal more enticing. It doesn’t have to be all about money. For example: Offering a discount to use your courier service. We’ll cater their next holiday party. We’ll fund a branch of your wife’s charity, etc. Know which aspects of the deal are most important and those that can be deferred.

 6. – At the time set for the meeting, make note if they are punctual and well-groomed.

If they pass, then this shows that they mean business and may have nothing to hide. If they are late; notice if it was because they were in a rush or are attempting to be strategic. If they hurried; appearing disheveled and sweaty, then they may be unorganized and ill-prepared.

If they stroll in relaxed, then they either;

A. Don’t take you seriously

B. Want to make you uncomfortable

C. Are trying to cover their insecurity.

D. Are overconfident

You will find the answer soon enough.

Here we go. It’s show time!

Business handshake to seal a dealThe Meeting:


1. – Notice the handshake and eye contact.

A. If the hand is weak and eye contact is poor, they are often apprehensive, nervous, and insecure.

B. Are their hands cold or warm? Extremes can indicate nervousness.

C. Are their palms sweaty? It often indicates nervousness, also.

D. Do these hands know manual work and exercise, or are they weak and idle?

E. You can learn a lot about someone from a handshake. If they oversell the handshake and eye contact, then the same could apply; that they are trying to conceal their nervousness. You can also surmise that they are probably good liars.

2. – Keep the initial greetings cordial and friendly.

Make them laugh. Notice if it’s a genuine laugh or a nervous, fake laugh. Be sure that your joking doesn’t diminish anyone or anything. A laugh can tell you a lot about a person. Is it tight-lipped or open-mouth? Is it a belly laugh? Is it constrained? Is there no laugh at all?

3. – Don’t ever compliment them or their team.

You don’t want them to become too comfortable or confident. They are more apt to give you more reads on their position if they are unsure of themselves.

Yes, never compliment the other team, unless they have blundered. It will make them even more unsure of themselves because they now know that you noticed their mistake or blunder and was magnanimous enough to not take their pawn, so to speak.

4. – Conversely, at some point during the encounter, compliment your team.

It bolsters and augments your side, showing unification, confidence, and strength.

5. – Keep the tone and language positive and professional.

Complaining and negativity broadcast a weakness of character and position. It portends sloppiness and unprofessionalism.

6. – Use questions to probe their position.

Asking a good question is implied silence. It enables them to speak while you get to listen for implications; while reading their body language.

However, don’t show them what you don’t know by asking ignorant and unprepared questions. It will not only diminish their respect for you, but will allow them to elevate their cow-chip meter.

7. – Use silence to see how impatient they are.

But don’t wait so long that you seem tongue-tied or confused, in judgment or disapproval; unless that is your intention.

Diverse business group meeting8. – Watch the behavior of the weakest links in their team.

These members will give you the most “tells” because of their lack of experience.

9. – Don’t volunteer any information.

The less they know about you and your situation, regarding these negotiations, the less material they have to use to undermine your position.

10. – Be accurate and succinct with your answers.

Use brevity and cordialness at all times. People always feel good about making a deal with someone they respect, admire, and aspire to be like. It can only help for strengthening ties for future ventures with this party. That is most important, even if this deal doesn’t get done today.

11. – Remark or compliment something extraneous to the deal but related to it.

For example: On the purchasing of a new plant – “I hear that this is in a good school district.” If they oversell the mediocre school district, you then know how desperate they are to make the deal happen.

12. – Ask for specific facts related to the project.

If they don’t have the answers readily available, observe their approach. Notice if there is hedging or deferrals, excuses or promises. In this day and age, of instant access to information, they should be able to text you a link to these details immediately.

13. – Notice their body language throughout the meeting.

Is there fidgeting with papers, hands, clothes, shallow breathing, poor eye contact, twitching? These are all good indicators of their comfort levels.

14. – Listen to speech patterns.

Speed, pitch, eye position, studdering, and word choice while speaking will also give you a good indication of what is behind their words.

15. – Always let them finish their sentences.

Take a brief pause before answering; to give them a little more time to add to their statement. It is the momentum of their speaking where they will often blunder. Most people are not as conscious when they are speaking as when they are silent. Speaking naturally puts a body in motion, it increases breathing and heart rate. Therefore, when they are speaking they are not completely at rest.

16. – You want to maintain their respect, throughout the meeting.

Don’t waste their time with unnecessary off-topic digressions or soliloquies. I can’t tell you how many will blab on and on because they have a captive audience that’s too polite to call them on their power-sucking performances.

Remember, if you permit inconsiderate loquaciousness, then the blabberer often assumes that they are in control and have the upper hand. Unless this is what you want them to think, or you are letting them talk their way into tying a noose for themselves, you need to return the conversation back to the issue at hand with adroitness and grace.

17. – At the adjournment of the meeting, again notice the condition of the handshake and eye contact.

Is the firmness the same as at the opening? You will know if they were concealing something by the firmness of the hand and the eye contact.

Hopefully, there was something here for you to contemplate and use the next time you need to advocate for yourself or negotiate a deal. Remember, always negotiate from a position of strength and confidence.

Modifying Cicero’s quote;

Silence is one of the great arts of negotiation.

*You may also find helpful points in “Pennies From Heaven: Revelations on Wealth.”

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James Finn

Author: James Finn

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