Shut Up and Win



I must admit it took me a while to find a picture where the mouth is covered, not by a female and not in a sexual way... With that kind of introduction, you're going to be almost surprised this article will have nothing to with feminism. Today we are diving into negotiation strategies, as advised by a professor from my MSc. The title says shut up. I mean it. Shut up. It's rather contradictory to all the Speak Up campaigns out there, but they are promoting something rather different. Speak up, lean in, step up, break glass ceilings. I'm with you. But how about some gender-neutral advice? Just shut up.

Sitting in silence is uncomfortable. Most people hate it. The thought of being with others, in silence, is petrifying. Why are they not speaking? Should you be saying something? Icebreaker? Joke? Interesting anecdote? The quintessential British remark about the weather? The silence continues. Your brain is looking for something to say, to do. This nothingness is appalling. Your heart is beating louders than your words. You are sure people around you should be able to hear you sweat by now. Now before you loose your shit, calm down. I said this was going to be about negotiating and it will be. Imagine the following scenario: you're in an office, just applied for a job, really eager to get it. This is the moment of the interview. Not the first interview. No, we are talking mutual interest. You want the company, the company wants you. Things are getting steamy. Time for something even hotter: wage negotiations. This is the moment we have waited for. Silence s'il vous plaît. You're probably confused. Not because of your lack of French understanding, but because this does not seem like the right time to be quiet. You must boast. Show off your immense value. The many things you can contribute. Talk about the wages you have had before. Talk about the wages of your current and potential colleagues. Talk a lot. And then talk even more. Thing is, they have already deemed you worthy. That's why you're sitting there in the first place. I already told you this wasn't the first interview anymore. Second of all, individual value is difficult to assess when moving into a new context, so you're grasping at straws there too. When talking about your own previous wages, you might just be anchoring yourself on a number that is lower what they had in mind in the first place. It's the same for wages of your current and potential colleagues. Don't ruin your own chances by starting out with a number that might be lower than what they had in mind.

I already mentioned how uncomfortable silence is for most people, right? So it's not just you. It's also very likely the person(s) opposite you, doing the interviewing. When they ask you what you think you're worth, or what kind of wage you deem to be acceptable/reasonable for the job you are applying to, return the question. Let them make an offer and consider it for a while, in silence. Silence affects them too. They too might break the silence by increasing the initial offer. I know you want to look agreeable to them, because you want to work there. But they want to look agreeable to you too, because they want you to work there. As a result, you keeping your mouth shut, might lead them to blurt out a higher number. From there on, you can start negotiating your way up to a more desirable offer. You can always keep quiet after having received an offer. Even if it's the tenth offer, although the technique might get a bit old by then. Biggest mistake is to immediately accept any offer that seems reasonable "enough." You're better than that. I know you've already lost 6 buckets worth of sweat during the interview, but please. Contain yourself.

I have mentioned that blurting out wages, of your previous jobs or those of colleagues, might not be a great starting point. However, knowing them and knowing the industries average wage for your position is advised. If you keep receiving offers that are below these numbers it is time to cut the crap. Especially the average industry wage for the position is a good anchoring point if negotiations do not seem to go anywhere. Be cheeky, not rude or angry, when asking: "I have found €...... - €....... to be the average wage (or a range of wages) for this position, your offers don't match this. Why is that?" They might be able to give you proper reasons, they might not be. What you do then is up to you. When using this technique I would advise to properly check the average wage for your job and having done your research well. Otherwise the argument will collapse rather quickly. And you will look like a fool.


So negotiations have occured, you have ended up with a offer you deem very acceptable. My professor still advises to leave an air of mystery. More silence, that is. You thank your interviewer for their time and say that you will consider the offer. Then you leave. Sounds simple. Feels horrid. Has to be done.


There will be a deadline to adhere to. Maybe you have a day, maybe a week to consider the offer. I would advise writing down the costs and benefits of the job on a paper and reviewing it with someone else. This is something to see if, without the adrenaline racing through your veins, the job and the offer still look as appealing as they did before. If they do, great. Time to calmly accept the offer. You may jump up and down your bed with excitement in the privacy of your own home, but not whilst e-mailing or being on the phone with them. If the offer is no longer ideal, you have two options: re-negotiate or look for a different job. That one is up to you.

All in all, this article was just some advice I got a year ago, from a professor who very convincingly argued for silence as a tool. Using something that makes you uncomfortable as a tool to make others more uncomfortable. To get them to give you what you want.


I think it's worth a try. Silence is a virtue after all.

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