“Anyone who has negotiated with me,” says Joanna Coles, “knows I can be a nightmare.”
Coles is the chief content officer at Hearst Magazines; she’s served as editor-in-chief of both Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s also a board member of Snap.
Coles is notorious for her gutsiness — she once ambushed a woman in a bathroom stall in an attempt to land a scoop — so it’s not entirely surprising that she characterises herself as a fearsome negotiator.
On an episode of Business Insider’s podcast, “Success! How I Did It,” Coles shared with Business Insider US editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell her best strategy for winning a negotiation: silence.
“In any kind of negotiation, silence is often your best friend because you don’t want to give too much away, and the truth is, actually, I normally hire someone to negotiate for me. It’s just easier, and I don’t always feel comfortable telling somebody quite what I want. But I’m always amazed when I’m negotiating with people from the other side of the desk, how people will rattle on and not stop talking. People talk a lot when they’re nervous.”
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For those of us who don’t have the resources — or the influence — to find someone to negotiate on our behalf, it’s worth taking Coles’ advice on staying quiet.
Fast Company’s Stephanie Vozza spoke with Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez, author of “Think Like a Negotiator,” and learned that talking too much is an all-too-common negotiating mistake. Lewis-Fernandez told Vozza that salespeople sometimes talk so much that they talk a customer out of a purchase.
And Cathy Salit, founder and CEO of consulting firm Performance of a Lifetime, wrote on Inc. that “[s]ilence is a well-known tactic among successful negotiators, at least in part because of the useful information you’ll get as your counterpart tries to fill the word vacuum you’ve created.”
The topic of negotiation is especially relevant for Coles these days. A few months ago, “news” broke that Coles, who is the only woman on Snap’s board, was paid less than all the other board members. It soon came to light that Coles was not, in fact, the lowest-paid member of Snap’s board.
Coles told Shontell: “I was totally depressed at the idea that someone would think that I would not be able to negotiate for myself.”
The key to deploying silence effectively may be getting over the sheer awkwardness of it. Once you do, it’s a useful skill even outside formal negotiations.
Kim Scott, a former Google and Apple exec and the author of “Radical Candor,” previously told Business Insider that if you want feedback from your employees, the best thing to do is pose the question and then sit in silence for six seconds. Your employees will have to say something to break the silence.
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