The Art Of Silence Is Essential To Your Business Relationships

by Paul Hudson

After a weeklong trip to Turkey, I am finally on my way out. After a couple of days filled with meetings that seemed to last much longer than they should have, I am ready to say goodbye and to hop on the next flight. Turkey is an interesting country with a rich culture and delicious lamb dishes. Doing business in Turkey, however, is a pain in the ass.

Then again, going head to head with the CEO of a company in any country is a pain in the ass. There truly is an art behind arguing, negotiating and placing yourself on a ledge above your opponent in the eyes of those that matter — in my case, the chairman of the general assembly (long story). When it comes to doing business, I am a ruthless motherf*cker, as one must be when playing a game of high stakes.

That’s what business comes down to: a game of outsmarting, outmaneuvering and out-strategizing your opponent. When it comes to such warfare, the best weapon in your artillery — by far — is silence.

Whether sitting down and having a business dinner, going through pre-court litigations or simply conversing with your archrival, the aim of the game is gathering as much information on your opponent as you possibly can. The more you know about your opponent, the more you have to use against him.

The more your opponent knows about you, the more he can — and will — use against you. For this reason, keeping your mouth shut and saying as little as you can of substance is your best defense. The more experienced your opponent is, the better he will be at directing the conversation in the direction he wishes it to go. You may have started off with a seemingly friendly and harmless conversation about the weather and about them Yankees, only to minutes later have realized that you let slip your company’s newest product idea.

If, on the other hand, your current strategy is not to strengthen your position by growth, but rather by taking out the competition entirely, then you undoubtedly have a complex and sophisticated plan already set in motion. If your opponent knows this is your game plan, then she will do her best to screw with you and direct the conversation in such a way so that you feel inclined to let some piece of key information slip and clue her into your next step of action. Keep your mouth shut and don’t give her what she needs.

While keeping mum works as a great defense, silence works even better as an offense — at times subtle and at other times ruthless. Generally, there are two types of people whom you will meet in your business dealings: first, the calm, levelheaded and self-contained businessman and then the hotheaded and attention-seeking businessman. Some like to do business while keeping a poker face and will engage your silence with silence of their own, only letting that roll off their lips that must be said and nothing more.

In my experience, these types of people tend to be the most dangerous — hence why I am writing this article and suggesting you apply such methods of business etiquette. When encountering such a foe, make sure not to be the one to break. They, as you yourself, are waiting for the other person to become too anxious and frustrated.

There is a reason why the Japanese refuse to be the first to speak while doing business — because the first to speak is the first to present one’s own position. Once a position is known, the competition will have the advantage of revamping their strategy in order to benefit the most from the novel information. There are many books available that discuss such a position and tactics in further detail.

You will not always encounter a mirroring silence; there are times that you will encounter the eager, overly-excited person. When going head to head with such, thank your lucky stars — these are the easiest people to manipulate and to destroy (in a business sense, of course). They are openly passionate, aggressive, quick to act and more often than not, slow to think.

These are the types of businessmen that are not in it solely for the money or for the passion of actually creating a business that can make a difference — these are the type of businessmen that are in it for the fame and recognition. For this reason, being ignored sets their insides on fire.

I say this from experience; if you come up against a person while doing business that seems to have an extraordinarily short temper, has a need to hold position and respect, and is anxious to take action, then consider yourself lucky. These types of people will not know how to react to your silence and the lack of interest you show for them and for their work. Do not give them the answers that they are looking for and watch as they begin to ruin themselves.

They will begin to question why it is that you do not have interest in what they have to say and why it is that you do not find them worthy of your full attention. Go into the conversation knowing what you wish to keep mum and don’t give them an inch. They will most likely become heated, angry and aggressive — this is exactly what you want.

When a person gets mad, they become unable to think clearly and to make rational decisions. They become emotional and make decisions based off the way that they feel and not on the facts in front of them. Whenever you get a chance to tap into a person’s emotions — his or her irrational side — do so. There is no better way to guarantee a mistake be made than to aggravate and make them begin to question their own worth and ability.

Provoke and poke at them as much as you can, as long as they are not at risk of doing you physical harm, they will do no more than try their best to prove you wrong. Once their aim is to foil your plans and to prove you wrong, you will have taken their attention away from their actual work and placed it onto you — you now have control of their actions and are able to direct their thoughts wherever you see fit.

Games like these are played every day on smaller scales. When it comes to doing business and to competition, mind games as such are played on a grander scale. Using silence to your benefit — both as a defense and offense — will allow you to initiate the ultimate mind-f*ck.

Photos via Tumblr