Stop Talking

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One of the most common mistakes people make in negotiation is talking too much.. We talk people into the sale then talk them out of it because we keep talking when we should just be quiet. We share our negotiation position and instead of keeping our mouth shut after we presented our point, we continue to talk which then gives the leverage over to the other side.

There’s an old adage that says “he or she who speaks next loses.” What that means is when it comes down to the wire in the negotiation and you’ve both put your final offers on the table. The one who speaks next is typically the one who will concede in the negotiation.

If you’ve ever been in a situation like that, you have most likely experienced that “deadly silence.” Sometimes the silence is so uncomfortable that someone will speak just to make it stop. If you can hold out and be comfortable with the discomfort of the silence, you will most likely come out on top of the negotiation.

When I was in my last few years of my Air Force career, my sister came to live with me in Alamogordo NM. She is an older sister and had gotten into a situation where she needed to get out and start over. She got a job paying very little and we started to look for a used car for her.

One day I was out with my son and came home to find a brand new car in the carport. I knew she could afford a new car on what she earned. After we went over the paperwork and her budget she realized there was no way she could afford this car. She had bought it on a Saturday and she called the dealer the next day on Sunday and told them she wanted to bring the car back. There was no 3-day grace period like many states have today.

They told her if she brought it back they would treat it like a repossession. She only drove it 8 miles. The stickers were still on the car and the banks weren’t open on Saturday so I knew they had not processed the loan.

We went down to the dealer to discuss it. We sat down with the finance manager and the salesman. The finance manager said they were going to show her another deal. She started to agree when I spoke up. The finance manager and I started to go back and forth discussing the issue. He started to raise his voice so I went up with him. Finally he slammed the folder shut and said “Frankly I’m getting upset!” and I said “well I’m already upset!” I crossed my arms and glared at him.

The silence was intense. No one was moving and I just sat there frozen, staring at the finance manager. He finally broke the silence and said “well, we are a small dealer in a small town….” They tore up the papers and we left. I had the leverage of the loan not being processed yet and also this was a small town sustained by the military. They were one of only 2 dealerships in town. A bad rap could have drastically affected their business in a negative way.

The power of silence is one of the most powerful tools you can use in negotiation. Use it often and watch how much your success will increase. Get comfortable with the discomfort of the silence and remember to “stop talking.”

Eldonna Lewis Fernandez
Eldonna Lewis Fernandez
Veteran negotiation and contracts expert Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez, author of “Think Like a Negotiator,” has over 30 years of experience crafting killer deals both stateside and internationally, many in excess of $100 million. She’s currently the CEO of Dynamic Vision International — a specialized consulting and training firm that helps individuals hone negotiation skills — as well as a nationally regarded keynote speaker, session leader and panelist on the Art of Negotiation. Eldonna may be reached online at

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