Silence Can Be A Great Negotiating Tactic

As you may have guessed, I am crazy about negotiation stories. I like hearing people who helped themselves, I like knowing that people can get a better price without sacrificing anything and in the end of the day, it comes down to one thing:

I like helping people save money.

So, today I have a perfect example of how to negotiate.

I’m a regular person. I don’t have any secrets, I don’t think I’m naturally charming, and I’m not the kind of person who just runs into luck at every corner. I’m normal, just like you.

On Thursday, I went to sign a lease on a new apartment. Everything was pretty straightforward: $1,500 monthly rent (combined with my roommate), with all utilities included. I would move in August 1st, and I expected it to be a quick process of signing some papers.

We checked out the apartment to make sure there weren’t any surprises. Everything looked the way I wanted. THere were a few minor issues that needed to be taken care of, but there was a week left before the move in date, so I wasn’t worried.

The leasing agent wanted to go through the paperwork with me, which I thought was a waste of time, and for the most part, I just listened as he told me that we shouldn’t break down any walls, leave the place trashed, or start a retail business out of our apartment. Pretty basic.

Then he got to the utilities portion, which showed that all utilities were included – except for electricity. I told him that when I spoke to Stephanie, who showed us the apartment, she said that all utilities were included. Marc, the leasing agent, said that they don’t do that for any of their properties.

Then we had an awkward silence. I sat there, contemplating my next move. I was stuck in a corner. Paying for electricity wouldn’t be the best thing because I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, but I didn’t really have many options.

I stared at the piece of paper a bit longer. It had maybe been 15-20 seconds since either of us had said anything. And apparently that was enough for Marc to break the silence.

“I can’t pay that for you because the bill goes straight to you, but I can give you half off the 2nd month’s rent.”

Um, hell yah! Are you kidding me? $750 back? We know some other people who live in that building and their electricity bills average around $30 per month.

So $750 comes out to $62.50 a month, meaning we’ll actually be saving money on this miscommunication.

I didn’t even ask. I just sat there. And I saved nearly $400. That is pretty damn awesome.

So the next time you’re in a tight spot and aren’t sure where to take the negotiations, try waiting for the other person to make the first move. Just because I was in a tight spot doesn’t mean the other party wanted to sit in awkward silence any more.

Happy bargaining!

17 Responses to Silence Can Be A Great Negotiating Tactic

  1. Leslie says:

    $30/month?!? What? Sure in the fall months the electricity bill split three ways is about that but in the summer and winter it’s double that.

    • Daniel says:

      @Leslie, On average, that’s what it should come out to. We have a small apartment with one air conditioner. In the winter, it should be below that. I spoke with someone last night who said that it gets expensive in the summer months. How high? Around $60. That doesn’t scare me at all.

  2. Daniel, that’s one of the tips I heard from Dave Ramsey during Financial Peace University. Of course, I can’t say I employed it yet.

    It’s good to hear that it is effective for one of us “ordinary people”. Congratulations on the success!

  3. Money Beagle says:

    I love stories like that. Good work! I’m pretty impressed about your low bill as well.

  4. Good work! We learned silence as a tactic in business school as well. Get them to negotiate themselves for you!

    Use silence in job salary negotiations too.

  5. Great job! I am usually one to say something, so I am going to try this trick next time!!

  6. Jenna says:

    The key is silence, plus being able to do quick math. That is always helpful if silence doesn’t work. Plus, being silent gives you time to do the math in your head :)

  7. Doug Warshauer says:

    Great story, and a great tip.

    There’s another lesson in your story as well – if you reach a roadblock going down one path, try another. You didn’t need to do it, because your leasing agent did it for you, but if he hadn’t suggested dropping half a month’s rent, you could have proposed it yourself. Sometimes you need to try a variety of different ways to get what you are looking for before you find one the other party can agree to.

  8. Moneyedup says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. People often forget that silence can sometimes communicate more than words can. It’s great to hear that you bargained your way to such a great deal on your electricity and rent. Your story is also a reminder that it is always good to read over any type of lease or contract with the land lord or real estate agent. If you hadn’t read over every detail you would have missed this vital information about your electricity bill.

  9. Daniel, Silence is golden! If you really like negotiating stories, google Roger Dawson. He’s got a great series of books and articles on the subject.

    • Daniel says:

      @Car Negotiation Coach, My favorite negotiator has got to be Herb Cohen. I read his books and I couldn’t get enough of it!

  10. BRILLIANT; I love to negotiate (everything). Thanks for the “reminder” regarding the power of silence; it works in so many situations. Best regards, Barb

  11. I’m like Everyday Tips, I usually speak first. I will have to try the silent pause next time we’re buying something big…I see it being difficult for me. :-)

  12. Jim says:

    silence on the phone is even more dramatic. every second feel like 6 so if you ask a question and wait 2 or 3 seconds. the person on the other line is 100% going to spill the beans and you will automatically have a leg up.

  13. Nice! Good job! I think that works quite well in person, but I’m not sure that staying silent on the phone would work as well, though (if you’re negotiating your cell phone contract or cable bill on the phone). =)

  14. Karla Smith says:

    Sometimes silence can be really uncomfortable but as you mention above it could be a great tactic for negotiation.

  15. mary says:

    Absolutely, I have used silence before in negotiating, estimating jobs, even when dealing with angry customers! Very effective, learned it totally by accident when purchasing a new car 18 years ago (the last time I purchased a new car, still have it). We were at an impasse in the road and I just stopped talking and stared at my spouse for about 5 or 10 seconds (not at a tactic at the time, just thinking). The salesman automatically started dropping their price without me saying a thing. Silence sends some sort of message that they might be losing the sale altogether and they immediately start backpedaling! Love it, very empowering!!!