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Melbourne Business School News Podcast: Why you shouldn't be afraid of silence during a negotiation

Podcast: Why you shouldn't be afraid of silence during a negotiation

People often assume that silence during a negotiation is an intimidation tactic, but new research shows it can actually lead to more collaborative outcomes.

Melbourne Business School Associate Professor of Management Jennifer Overbeck and MIT Sloan Gordon Kaufman Professor of Management Jared Curhan spoke with Yasmin Rupesinghe about their findings on the latest episode of the Melbourne Business School Podcast.

"Both Jen and I research many topics, but among those is how people negotiate and how we can encourage people to negotiate more effectively," says Professor Curhan.

"Most research and negotiation focuses on what negotiators say, but we're interested in what happens when a negotiator says nothing at all or goes silent."

Their most recent research, conducted with colleagues Yeri Cho, Teng Zhang and Yu Yang, shows that using silent pauses in negotiations can create unexpected value – despite what many people assume.

"When you ask people, 'what's your intuition about what happens when someone goes silent in a negotiation', they report that they think, 'oh, the other person is trying to get into my head, they're trying to wear me down, to play mind games with me'," says Associate Professor Overbeck.

"So, almost certainly what would happen if somebody went silent in a negotiation is that the other person would get freaked out and give away a lot of the value in that negotiation.

"But instead, we've done quite a few studies, and repeatedly found that silence seems to provide an opportunity to pause and tamp down the heat of competition in the negotiation, and just take a little bit of mental space that allows the opportunity for collaboration to move to the fore."

Listen to the full episode above, or visit our podcasts page for more.

Associate Professor Overbeck teaches Organisational Change, Negotiations and Managing People on our MBA programs, and presents on short courses such as Thriving Through Change and our Women in Leadership Program.

Her research focuses on the effects of power and status on interpersonal and group dynamics, how hierarchies develop, how leaders can bolster their images, and how emotions and communication patterns affect negotiations. Visit her faculty profile for more information.

Yasmin is a Program Manager on our Executive MBA and Senior Executive MBA programs, and a radio presenter for PBS FM.

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