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How to Negotiate Without Saying a Word

By |May 09, 2022

Is it ridiculous to think you can negotiate without saying a word? 

The infamous ratio The Black Swan Method™ teaches is 7:38:55. This means that the meaning of a message is the sum of words (7 percent), tonality (38 percent), and body language (55 percent).  

Keep reading to learn how to use nonverbal communication in negotiation.

Group of people negotiating terms for a new contract

Negotiating Without Words? 

Jim Rogers published a great book called Investment Biker in 1994. He went around the world in 22 months, driving through 55 countries on his BMW motorcycle. Even in countries where he didn’t speak the language (the vast majority), he still negotiated for local currencies on their black market monetary exchanges. (In his experience, the black market exchange rates always gave better deals than the “official” bank exchanges.) 

Using encouragers, tonality, and body language (including facial expressions), you can deliver 97% of a message. No words are needed.

So how do you go from using minimal “encouragers” to “kinetic encouragers,” a term coined by Barbara Thomas, for Ri-level Black Swan skills?

Let’s take a look.

What Are Encouragers?

In hostage negotiation, encouragers are simple gestures—think yeah, uh-huh, okay, hmmm, go on—that are useful for helping someone talk through an extended thought. With these gestures, they know you are still listening. Technically speaking, some of these encouragers are words. But you aren’t using them to convey meaning.

They go from being minimal to “kinetic” by using a tonality of deep understanding (downward inflection) or genuine curiosity (upward inflection). 

The Martial Arts Layers of Silence

In addition to encouragers, throw Dynamic Silence™ into the mix. The difference between an effective pause (a Shu-level hostage negotiation skill lasting 1-3 seconds) and Dynamic Silence is duration.

Embracing The Black Swan Method and using Dynamic Silence is a Ha-level negotiation tactic pioneered by Brandon Voss. Stop talking. Count one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand, and wait until your counterpart breaks the silence. You will never count less than three-one thousand and rarely get to 12-one thousand because your counterpart will fill the space.

The pinnacle of silence is Ri-level Dynamic Silence. Start the silence with the mindset that you will count to yourself until you run out of numbers. This takes practice and determination. So far, the reported record for this (by one of our coaching clients) is 45. (Yeah, baby!)

Your body language and tonality not only groove your words so that they have the desired impact on the target, but can also take the place of your words (similar to how a picture is worth 1,000 of them). You can also make a facial expression worth 1,000 words.

Davi Johnson, uses a Ri-level combination of facial expression, tonality with an encourager, and Dynamic Silence. Her tone is always welcoming and curious. She will say “Really?” (an encourager) with a tonality of utter fascination, tilt her head to the side, and raise one eyebrow as if she is hanging on every word while she goes dead silent. And the counterpart goes on and on.

The commodity being negotiated for? Information. And a better relationship. 

When you are genuinely interested in what someone is saying, your relationship with them improves. It turns out that interested people are interesting.

Convey Emotion with Silence

Okay. At this point, I realize “really” is a word. Yet, at the same time, you can envision how someone can be completely silent and convey disagreement. Well, the same rules can be used to convey encouragement, interest, and agreement.

As always, employ small-stakes practice for high-stakes results. In your everyday interactions, practice displaying interest, encouragement, and agreement without actually saying it. See if you can make your counterpart feel that you are interested in what they are saying using facial expressions, head nods, head tilts, and your eyebrows. Put “interested” tonality in your encouragers.

Pick a day. Make it tomorrow, and make it your weekly “nonverbal encouragement day.”  Make those you interact with feel like they are the most interesting person you encountered that day, and you will raise the level of your performance to be “in the zone” again and again.

Here’s to using silence to make it rain!

 Shu - Ha - Ri: Martial arts terms roughly interpreted as “Shu” = solid fundamentals and proficiency; “Ha” = nailing good negotiations regularly due to continued execution of the fundamentals; “Ri” = in the zone, a flow state of negotiations, creating life-changing deals.

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