“Negotiation Attention How To Capture And Maintain It For More Quicker Wins” – Negotiation Insight

“Attention, like clouds, can be silently ominous. And that is more so when the lack of attentiveness in a negotiation cloud one’s thinking.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (click to Tweet)

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“Negotiation Attention How To Capture

And Maintain It For More Quicker Wins”

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.

Aha, yep, okay, go on, continue – those were the utterances of the opposing negotiator as he was half-listening to what the other negotiator was saying. That occurred during a critical part of the negotiation. Upon hearing his responses, she became fearful. She thought, he is not paying attention to me, but I will plow forward.

Later in the negotiation, she found her fears warranted and realized she had made a big mistake by continuing while her counterpart was listening with divided attention. But by that time, the negotiation had strowed scarily close to an impasse. She wondered if it was too late to save the negotiation? She mused. What should I have done to be sure I had his attention?

When was the last time you caught your opposite negotiation partner half-listening to you – not giving you or your offers the deserved attention needed to progress the negotiation? How did you feel when you reached a point in the talks and realized essential things you had said were absent from the other negotiator’s memory?

Not maintaining the full attention of your counterpart can be a failure’s starting point in a negotiation. But you can avert that from occurring in your future talks. And here is how to do that.

Importance Of Maintaining Attention

During a negotiation, a negotiator’s attention may stray. She may be contemplating an offer, her response, or how the proposal may shift the negotiation. Regardless of the circumstances, if you sense you do not have the full attention of your counterpart, voice your suspicions. Make her aware of what you are perceiving. As stated, if you allow her attention to meander, you risk subjecting the negotiation to pitfalls later in the process.

Ways To Test Negotiator’s Attentiveness

To maintain the other negotiator’s attentiveness, test it. The response will alert you to how vigilant they are. For example, you might say, would you rather have the deliverables in 90 days or three months? Which would be best for you?

If she half-heartedly stated, 90 days is good. Your suspicions might become deepened since 90 days and three months is about the same period. Maybe she didn’t consider both offers were the same. Or she may not care.

Either way, it would behoove you to probe to uncover her thoughts. The more you know what the opposing negotiator is thinking, the better your chances are to help shape her thoughts.  

Be cautious about the use of this kind of test. It would help to use it when you strongly suspect the other negotiator is not attentive to the occurrences in the negotiation. Meaning you would use it when her attention was absent and vital to what you were discussing. You do not want her to think you are attempting to be tricky. Nor do you want to appear to be manipulative or deceitful. Maintaining a negotiator’s attention will avert mistakes.

Employing Active Listening

One way to assure your negotiation counterpart gives you his full attention is to use active listening techniques. Active listening requires the listener to focus, comprehend, recall, and reply to what was said. You can affect the use of this tool by positioning yourself as a sounding board.

In essence, you can ask open-ended or closed-ended questions that draw out your opposition’s thoughts, ideas, and even their hidden agenda. And while you are engaged in this process, you gather more information to guide the negotiation towards the outcome you seek. Plus, you decrease the chances of the other negotiator getting lost in their thoughts by being inattentive.

To highlight the point, you may recall stories of a car salesperson asking a prospective buyer if he wants a red or blue vehicle – that is a closed-ended question. The prospect responds by saying, no, I want a green one. And even in that situation, the salesperson has received further information about that prospect’s desires.

Keeping a negotiator engaged in this manner makes him less likely to stray from the negotiation mentally. And that will bode well for you.

Being Dramatic

I recall a negotiation I participated in with a client when the attention span of the opposition was sorely lacking. Upon observing the opposition’s inattentiveness to our discussion, I slid a note to my client and suggested that he begin to babble. Say anything, I stated, but be dramatic.

My client followed my suggestion and said to our counterpart, so what do you think of that? He did so in the voice of an actor on stage. And while in the pose, he cupped his hands to his chest. And his head was elevated and looking right, towards the ceiling.

That is one way to be dramatic. Another is to feign anger. I have seen the feigning of anger used as a ploy to solicit empathy or a coercion tool to accomplish a goal’s end.

Sometimes, dramatizing your message will grab your negotiation counterpart’s attention. And in some cases, it will disallow that negotiator from withdrawing it in fear that you might go back into that state. Creating drama can be effective in maintaining attention. But once again, use it where and when appropriate. And be mindful of overusing it.


During a negotiation, attention spans will vary. And there could be a multitude of reasons for that. But the one thing you must avoid to be successful in your negotiation is having the other negotiator’s attention absent at pivotal points in your discussion. That could be the death knell of your talks.

To maintain a grasp on the negotiation, maintain a grasp on your opponent’s attention. Doing so will make him more malleable without mollifying him for something he says he missed. That means you will have greater control of the negotiation. And everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

Listen to Greg’s podcast at https://c-suitenetwork.com/radio/shows/greg-williams-the-master-negotiator-and-body-language-expert-podcast/

After reading this article, what are you thinking? I’d like to know. Reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com

To receive Greg’s free “Negotiation Tip of the Week” and the “Negotiation Insight,” click here https://themasternegotiator.com/greg-williams/blog

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