The stereotype of a great negotiator is an aggressive smooth-talker who excels at posturing and bluffing, and loves nothing more than a good confrontation.
Which is just another way of saying that quiet, low-key, conflict-averse people — otherwise known as introverts — make poor negotiators. You know who you are.
But hold on. In many important ways introverts are better and more effective at negotiating than their more outgoing colleagues. Here’s why.
Introverts are good listeners. Introverts, who don’t need to be the center of attention, are free to grant to others a rare gift: The experience of being truly listened to. In a negotiation this is gold. For one thing, it creates engagement, goodwill and trust. For another, it’s the best (and only!) way to discover your counterpart’s wants, needs and fears — information you need in order to strike mutually beneficial and long-lasting deals.
Introverts aren’t afraid of silence. With their tendency toward introspection, introverts are often less reliant on the approval of others. Even when this isn’t true, a lifetime of sitting and listening while extroverts chatter away has trained most introverts to be comfortable with not talking. Both of these are important traits that can work to a negotiator’s advantage. While you are quietly thinking through what you want to say next, the other party may leap in to fill what is for them an uncomfortable silence, thus supplying more valuable information. Sometimes they even make voluntary concessions.
Introverts tend to be good at research and preparation. It may not be glamorous, but the facts that arise from solid research are essential for convincing others to come around to your way of thinking. It’s the best way to prove and “sell” your point of view. Facts also help you anticipate objections and make plans for contingencies. Plus, facts are one way to know if and when you should walk away from a potential bad deal.
Finally, introverts tend to come across as more sincere. In this noisy age of spin and bluster, the measured, quiet, thinking approach of your typical introvert is often very welcome. Let’s face it, a lot of us are tired of being manipulated and fooled. The introvert’s authentic substance-over-style approach wins trust, even gratitude. No posturing, bluffing or confrontations are necessary.