Effective negotiators know that listening is more powerful than talking.

This is not always easy when you are really, really right about something, and the idiot two feet away can’t seem to make a mental dent in the obvious.

Railing at jackasses probably boosts your immune system, but the eggheads tell us to do more listening than talking.

Listening is learning, increasing your supply of information; talking is teaching, but teaching means increasing the other parties’ stash of information with no reciprocal increase in one’s own.


That’s not all.

When we speak, we cannot always control what comes out.

We’ve all had that experience.

You don’t have to be Joe Biden or Rick Perry or Natalie Maines.

Sometimes we cannot control our words.

We can never control how they are received, what they sound like after going through the recipients’ mental filters and emotional prism.

Sometimes we get a case of “runaway mouth” (which I prefer to any references to fecal matter in this context, thank you very much).

Sometimes the thoughts that we are trying to hide get tangled up with the sounds we emit, and we commit verbal gaffes, Freudian slips, and inadvertently drop hints (or is that “drop inadvertent hints”?).

We are especially prone to talk stupid in negotiations because negotiation is almost always a process in which each party has a secret stash of information, and the parties then play the game of “I’ll show you mine, if you will show me yours.”

I know that “stupidly” is better (or, at least, I think it is), but I was trying to make a point!

Never mind!

Nevertheless, hopefully, I have convinced you to work on your listening skills.


Listening is a skill.

You have to practice it.

When you do, and when you are involved in your next negotiation (whether it be about where to eat dinner or how to make a multi-million dollar transaction), listen, and listen with intent.

Listening with intent means to listen with a purpose.

For example, you can listen for needs, interests, concerns, values, resistance points, issues, anxieties, problems to solve, and I could go on.

For this exercise, I am asking you to practice listening for movement.

Listening for movement means to listen for those little hints that indicate how the other party might change his position.

Listen for movement.

If you do, you will hear it.

Sometimes, it blares and blunders its way to you.

Sometimes, it will not hit you until later.

Pay attention

and listen for movement.

End of sermon!