HomeNegotiatingSilence Can Be A Great Negotiating Tactic

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.

People tend to underestimate the power of silence when it comes to sales and social dynamics in general. In many cases, saying nothing is way more powerful than spoken words. Using silence for negotiating can help you establish the alpha role, build the other party’s neediness and close more deals.
For example, lets say you’re on a consultation call with a prospect who’s interested in buying your social media marketing services for his bakery business. You ask the prospect how much money they’re making with their business right now every month. And instead of getting a precise dollar figure, the business owner mumbles something along the lines of “we’ve had mixed numbers over the last few months”.
At this point, instead of speaking up and attempting to rebuttal the lack of detail in his answer — you remain totally silent.
You don’t say a word.
This will put the prospect in their head and make them think their answer wasn’t good enough for you. From this place, they’re much more likely to give you the numbers you need.

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!



  1. $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.

    • @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. 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 :)

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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). =)

  9. 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!!!

Comments are closed.

Most Popular

Recent Comments