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Negotiating: it’s in your tone of voice

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One of the great secrets of negotiation is how your tone of voice affects the other person’s perception of your mood. Whether you’re in sales or just a customer trying to get a company to do right by you, there are several tips I’ve found very effective over the years:

Open female mouth speaking in negotiating tone
  • Keep your pitch low. Don’t let your voice wander up into the higher ranges: it sounds desperate and/or false to the ear.
  • How to yell.Yelling signals “I have lost control of the discussion”, so it’s rarely to your advantage. But when you are losing control of a situation or the other person’s not paying attention:
    • Raise your volume just enough for the difference to be noticed.
    • Keep your pitch low, just like before.
    • Do this only for one sentence. Then, if the person still does not listen to you, stop responding. Let them yell or ramble or whatever until they realize you’re not participating in their game, feel foolish, and ask you a direct question. If they’re being childish, you can call attention to it by politely asking, “Are you through, now?”
    • When dealing with someone who tries to bully you by talking over you, sometimes the best option is to say what you like quietly and at a normal pace, underneath what they’re saying, until they shut up to hear what you’re saying. By neither raising your voice to be heard nor speeding up to squeeze your words into the gap when they breathe, you signal that you don’t have to put up with this from them.
  • A smile can be heard through your voice. Before starting a phone call, think of something that makes you happy. This may not work when you’re calling someone to tell them they’ve made a mistake… but depending on your personality, it just might. Some people do wonders with starting out friendly, no matter how wronged they’re feeling, then adopting a firm and serious tone when the other person refuses to right the wrong.

And remember: some people just can’t be dealt with. The more you apply these tips with confidence, the better you’ll get at sorting out thoroughly unreasonable people from the simple misunderstandings. If at all possible, just don’t deal with these people. If you must, then depending on the situation you may want to document your conversations with them in case they tell someone else you’re the one who was unreasonable.

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