An article by Cynthia Crossen from The Wall Street Journal a few years back reported that, “Most people speak at a rate of 120 to 150 words a minute, but the human brain can easily process more than 500 words a minute, leaving plenty of time for mental fidgeting.” Herein lays one of the great obstacles to effective listening. We have the biological capability to listen to everything, yet we often miss a lot of information because we get bored or disinterested.
In a negotiation, the last thing you want to do is lose out on information. Everything the other side says is potentially valuable to help you make a deal. Let the other side talk as much as they want. Listen between the lines to what is said and what is omitted. Listen for nuance and emotion. Listen with your eyes to see their mannerisms and comfort level with each topic. All the material you need to make the deal is there, it’s just up to you to gather it.
When it is your time to speak, make what you say count. Don’t feel obligated to match the amount of time they spoke for. Say what you need to frame the issues and keep moving forward on the key issues of the negotiation. The less you say, the more others will remember.
Think of it this way: the best negotiators aren’t only smooth talkers, they’re smooth listeners too.
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