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Yes, No, Maybe So

The silent treatment: It's one of the oldest tactics in journalism; you can make it work for you, too.
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All of the negotiating mistakes I've ever made have at least one thing in common: I opened my mouth and said something. Conversely, bargaining sessions have often worked to my advantage when I've simply kept quiet. The strategic use of silence is one of the insights readers will find in this month's cover story, "Take It or Leave It: The Only Guide to Negotiating You Will Ever Need" (page 74) by contributing writer Rob Walker. Silence is an effective tactic, Walker notes, because people often underestimate their own strengths while exaggerating those of their rivals. By shutting up, your negotiating adversaries are likely to adopt a weaker position of their own making. (This line of analysis also builds to another golden rule of negotiating: Never make the first offer.) I was taught the art of strategic silence years ago when I worked at The Wall Street Journal. The pregnant pause is a key weapon in any good reporter's arsenal, and it's amazing what even media-savvy CEOs will say when they think it's their job to keep the conversation going. There's one area, however, where the world's best negotiators all seem to agree that silence is unrewarding -- when it comes to writing books. As Walker points out, chatty volumes on negotiating now overflow the self-help aisles -- partly because publishers haven't stopped trying to replicate the 22-year success of Getting to Yes, which still sells about 3,500 copies a week. That's where Inc. decided it could perform a service. We asked Walker to pore through all of the leading negotiating books, attend a few seminars, and fly to Vero Beach, Fla., to meet face-to-face with Jim Camp, the drill sergeant of negotiators. Walker's mission: to compact the wisdom he encountered into something our busy readers could fully absorb in a few minutes. The result is a simultaneously entertaining and instructional story that should help even the most hard-bitten bargainers do a better job of getting the things they want. I'd say that's an offer you can't refuse, but I've already done too much talking.

Contributors

Rob Walker is a journalist living in New Orleans. He has written extensively on marketing and advertising strategies for The New York Times Magazine, Fortune, Money, and Slate. In this issue of Inc., he tackles the tricky subject of negotiating. Many of Walker's articles can be found on his website, www.robwalker.net.

Jess McCuan joined Inc. as a reporter in January 2003 after completing a master's degree in nonfiction writing at Columbia University. She has had summer internships at The Wall Street Journal and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Her article on the fall of Future Beef took her back to the Midwest, where she was born and raised.

As senior fellow for economic policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and former national economic adviser to President Clinton, Gene Sperling is an old hand at economic forecasting. This month, he offers Inc. readers do-it-yourself instruction on how to become your own economist. Sperling also lends his considerable experience to the hit television show The West Wing, as both consultant and occasional writer, and as a contributing editor and columnist to Bloomberg News.

Last updated: Aug 1, 2003




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