Pop culture portrays successful negotiators as loud-mouthed blowhards pursuing their own interests without the slightest concern for others. And, while this portrayal is occasionally accurate, successful negotiators are usually just the opposite—most of them are great listeners. In fact, many experts believe that listening is one of the most important predictors of a successful settlement. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, CEO Peter Bregman said it this way: “It’s counterintuitive, but it turns out that listening is far more persuasive than speaking.” But what is it about closing your mouth and opening your ears that makes it easer to get a deal done? It turns out that listening is an effective negotiation tool when used in the following ways:

Listen for Unspoken Truths

Negotiators that speak too much incorrectly assume that the negotiation is being played out in words. People often harbor positions that they are either unwilling or unable to articulate. Those that continually talk will likely miss those unspoken positions. Again, according to Peter Bregman, “There is almost always more substance below the surface of what people say than there is in their words. They have issues they are not willing to reveal. Agendas they won’t share. Opinions too unacceptable to make public. We can hear all those things — and more — when we keep quiet. We can feel the substance behind the noise.” In other words, by listening we are able to understand the opposite side’s positions, even when they aren’t spoken.

Reduce Tension by Listening

When two parties constantly speak at each other in a negotiation, tension and conflict often arise. Partly, this is because people grow frustrated when they perceive that they are not being heard. A lack of listening signals disrespect for another’s opinions and disrespect often breeds contention. Listening on the other hand has the amazing effect of calming tension and disarming angry opponents.

Build Trust by Listening

Mutual trust is a luxury, not found in every negotiation; however, negotiations go smoothly and quickly when it is present. One of the best ways to build that trust in a new relationship is to listen intently to the other party. Listening signals a genuine concern for the other party, an obvious prerequisite to trust. Forbes contributor Holly Green simply stated it this way: “Become a better listener. Your trust levels will definitely rise.”

At the Ken Garff Automotive Group, we learned the value of good listening a long time ago. All of our customer interactions are driven by a simple promise: “We hear you.” We know that when we listen to our customers, they have a more enjoyable car buying experience. By listening, we understand our customers’ needs and help to satisfy those needs by finding the best deal for their unique situations.


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