The Fourth Amendment in the Negotiator’s Bill of Rights is: You have a right to be a broken record. Sooner or later people run out of new things to say in negotiation. At that point some are embarrassed to say again what they said before.
My advice is, don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. Many experiments confirm that an audience will retain more of what the speaker says if it is repeated. The more the speaker repeats, the better it is remembered. When you do not know what to say next, say what you said before. Say it again and again and again.
I was once in a negotiation with an Iranian manufacturer who sold industrial lighting fixtures. What I remember most about his was that he was the most persistent broken record I ever met. Even when I repeatedly said “no” to the many things he asked for, that didn’t stop him.
He would return again and again and again to the same issue after talking about something else for a while. He made the same arguments over and over again as though I had never heard them before. He was the perfect “broken record.”
After the negotiation was over, we became friends. I asked him why he repeated himself so much. He laughed and said it was common in Iran and also worked well for him in the United States. I have since found it easier to be a broken record. When I don’t know what to say next, I shamelessly say what I said before, said before, said before.
The Fifth Amendment: You Have the Right Not to Answer Questions and You have a Right Not to Know the Answer
People who feel that they should know the answer to every question asked of them place themselves in a difficult position. They deprive themselves of the right to say “I don’t know” or “I will try to find out.”
The Negotiator who thinks he must know almost everything about the subject at hand usually talks too much and, in doing so, is likely to damage her position rather than help it. If you are lucky enough to run into someone who is so insecure that he feels he must answer every question you ask, be patient. He will soon tell you more than he should.
You have a right not to know the answer to a question. You also have the right not to tell what you know if you do know the answer. You have a right to give half an answer or none at all. You have a right to say, “I’ll look into it,” rather than shoot from the hip with a quick statement.
A negotiation is not a test. The right answer may be a partial answer, a delayed answer or no answer at all.