Are you listening carefully?
Posted by markharrison on October 23, 2006
“We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we talk”
– everyone’s mother
Well, the scientist in me resents trite claims like that. We have two ears, because by having two, we can better determine where sound is coming from, not so we can hear twice as many thing.
However, it’s definitely true in Negotiation that there are some real advantages to listening more and talking less.
The first is that, quite often, the person with whom you are negotiating will give some useful information that helps you. At one end of the spectrum, this could be the fact that yes, he or she would settle for a few thousand less than you’d hitherto believed. At the other end of the spectrum, there can be some rather more interesting options opened…
… very few negotiations, however they may appear at first, are actually one dimensional, with price being the only thing under discussion. The classic second dimension in property negotiation is that of timing – for some vendors, a quick sale may be more important than a few thousand pounds on the price, since they need that sale quickly to acheive something time-dependant (like a dream home they are looking to buy themselves.) But don’t assume that quick is always good – some people may want a slow sale – or rather, the security of knowing that their house is sold and contracts are exchanged, but the leisure to wait until the end of term, or the next holiday, to actually make the move in a way that is less disruptive.
The other reason that listening is good is the old adage – “people buy from people” (and, for that matter, sell their houses to them.) My very first property, in which I lived for only a year before moving on and letting it out, was, for the times, a low offer. The couple from whom I bought it commented to the Estate Agent that it was great to be selling “to such a nice young man”.
How did they know I was nice? Well, presumably because I’d asked a few questions, and listened attentively. Certainly, I’d not spoken enough for them to form any reasonable opinion of me.
Corporate negotiatiors well know the power of “active listening”, so let me substitute the mothers’ advice for my own:
“We listen twice as much as we talk, because it works”
– Mark Harrison