Science says use the 3-second rule to become remarkably persuasive

Sometimes silence is our best friend, especially during times of confrontations and tough negotiations. That's what a study published by the Journal of Applied Psychology states, and 3 seconds is all you need.

It's easy to go into a negotiation with exuberant energy and passion to push your point across. Yet, sometimes silence might be exactly what is needed, and can win the more favourable outcome for all parties involved. 

Try it next time you're negotiating or having a difficult conversation with someone. You might be surprised at just how persuasive it can be!

Until next time... 

The Consilium team

Science says use the 3-second rule to become remarkably persuasive

If you're like me, you hate to negotiate. (Maybe that's why I'm not very good at negotiating; for me, it's a task to be avoided or, worst case, completed as quickly as possible.)

Consider negotiating in a broader context, though, and you and I "negotiate" all the time.

Like when we explain the logic and benefits of a position. Or when we try to convince someone that an idea or premise makes sense. Or when we try to show someone how a decision will generate a desired return. Or when we try to help someone understand the benefits of a particular change.

Think of it that way, and you and I negotiate all the time, even though we aren't trying to "win."

We want both parties to win. 

The 3-Second Rule

Imagine you need someone to negotiate on your behalf. Stereotypically, the person you want enjoys confrontation. Is a little aggressive. Is more than happy to posture, bluff, and feign occasional outrage.

What you don't imagine is someone who sometimes sits quietly -- even though that's exactly what you probably need.

And is exactly, if you're trying to work through a difficult problem and arrive at a great solution, what you should do.

According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, sitting silently for at least three seconds during a difficult moment in a negotiation, confrontation, or even conversation makes both people more deliberative -- and leads to better outcomes.

As the researchers write:

...extended silence increases value creation by interrupting default, fixed-pie thinking and fostering a more deliberative mindset. Instructing negotiators to use silence is more effective for value creation than instructing them to problem-solve.

Challenging the social perception perspective that silence is a form of intimidation, we find no evidence for any associations between extended silence and the proportion of value claimed or subjective value of the counterpart.

The last paragraph is key; while you might think sitting silently might come across as an attempt at intimidation, it doesn't. Instead, people assume you're thinking. You're reflecting.

You aren't just reacting. You aren't just trying to get your way.

You're trying to find a way that works for both of you.

Try it. The next time you're negotiating, or simply trying to persuade or convince, see occasional silence as your friend. The more quickly you respond, the less deliberative you will seem. The less thoughtful you will seem. The more "dug in" you will appear.

At the very least, taking an occasional pause shows the other person you're listening. That you're trying to understand their needs and their point of view. 

Better yet, taking an occasional pause can help you to actually reflect on the other person's needs and point of view -- which, as the researchers found, leads to greater value creation: Instead of trying to take as much of the existing pie as you can, a little silence helps you and the other party find ways to create an even bigger pie that you can share.

Because negotiating -- as well as persuading and convincing -- isn't a game to be won or lost.

The best outcome is when both people feel they received something of value. When both people agree on a decision or direction because they genuinely agree.

Not because they felt pushed, or forced, or "negotiated" into agreeing.



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