How to Disagree (Part III): Silence is the Space Between the Notes

Recently on an extended beach vacation, I demonstrated that I am among the best in the world at doing nothing.

I can do nothing all day long.

I don’t mean what a lot of people might think is nothing: watching a movie, reading, napping or cleaning a closet.

I really mean nothing. My companions can tell I am not catatonic because I will appear alert and observant and will reply to most questions. But, I will not move for hours except for the most basic of functions.

If I was practicing Zen, you would think it’s an art carefully honed over years of practice, but it’s not.

I am just naturally doing what I am best at: nothing.

So, it will come as no surprise that one of my favorite negotiation techniques is Silence. Silence in negotiation is doing nothing.

When does silence help? I use Silence in three main ways:

1. To give an air of suspicion, finality or drama after a definitive statement such as a settlement offer or liability assessment

2. To deal with an emotional person

3. When I am jammed and need time to come up with a creative solution

In the first case, when someone makes a ridiculous offer, a long silence can show your suspicion or frustration. After your incredibly fair and well-explained offer, the silence means you have ‘said it all’.

In the second case, after correctly identifying the person’s emotion and the reason for it, silence helps move the person to resolution by implying there is nothing else you can or will do.

It is the final case where silence is truly golden. In a study released by the Sloan School of Business at MIT, researchers found silence improves outcomes for all parties to a negotiation. 

“When put on the spot to respond to a tricky question or comment, negotiators often feel as though they must reply immediately so as not to appear weak or disrupt the flow of the negotiation,” said the study. “The research suggests that pausing silently can be a simple yet very effective tool to help negotiators shift from fixed-pie thinking to a more reflective state of mind…which in turn, leads to the recognition of golden opportunities to expand the proverbial pie and create value for both sides.”

Many people think of Negotiation as an Art, and I am one of them. The great artist and composer Claude Debussy said, “Music is the space between the notes.”

In negotiations, silence is the space between the offer and the acceptance, the Space Between the Notes.

My mom always said someday I would elevate doing nothing to an Art Form.

And now, I have. 

How to Disagree (Part II): As It Turns Out

In our last Mark’s Claims, we started this series on how to disagree without being disagreeable.

If you are a professional golfer, you practice a lot of putts. If you are a professional basketball player, you’re going to shoot a lot of free throws. These are the skills needed to succeed.

As a professional adjuster, since our job is protecting a large pile of money from people who don’t deserve any or all of it that they want, we are going to have a lot of disagreements.

Think of it like putting or free throws: you need to disagree well to succeed as an adjuster – it’s a basic skill you should constantly practice.

This blog is all about giving you actionable items – simple little tips to improve your performance as a claims professional. 

Here’s another disagreement tip from the world of Visual Linguistics.

Visual Linguistics is the science of studying how the mind reacts to words and images. Simply put, to further our understanding we turn words into images and imagines into words. 

As an expert in disagreeing, we want to avoid words that provoke images of conflict and instead use words that visualize the absence of conflict. This brings me to the star of this column:

As it turns out.”

What do you “see” when you hear or read these words?

The visualization of this phrase conjures the image of a near -miss, a collision that didn’t happen or that a turn occurred before impact.

Another popular visualization is a surprise ending – that the souffle didn’t quite rise or the new bedroom paint didn’t work like you expected.

But it is not judgmental in any way: Might not be what you expected but it’s just the way things turned out. 

Perfect for a disagreement professional!

Let’s try it!

“As it turns out, both regulators and the repair industry know that aftermarket parts are a safe and economical way to put your car back in pre accident condition.”

“As it turns out, the medications that you submitted for reimbursement are for breast cancer, not the accident, so they are not eligible for reimbursement.”

“As it turns out, your policy doesn’t cover the custom awning you installed without an additional premium.” 

“As it turns out, the value of the damage is significantly less than first reported.”

“As it turns out, the law places some responsibility on you as the icy sidewalk is considered an ‘open and obvious’ hazard.”

When you speak, people are seeing images in their mind. Draw an image of the avoidance of conflict: use “AS IT TURNS OUT.”

Stay tuned for more tips on how to disagree!

How to Disagree (Part I): The Power of And

I love the Godfather series of movies. One of my favorite scenes is the one where Al Pacino is lectured: “This is the business we have chosen.”

If you are a working adjuster, someone will disagree with you on every day that ends in a “Y”.

This is the business we have chosen.

It follows that being able to hold your own in any argument is a necessary survival skill. Over the next several weeks, Mark’s Claims will be here with simple – but effective – techniques on how to disagree without being disagreeable.

Today’s is the simplest of all:

Never use the word “But”. Instead, use “And”.

Social science research at the Ottawa Institute for Advanced Linguistics found using the conjunction “but” was far less effective (as much as two thirds less effective) in resolving a dispute, compared to the conjunction “and”. 

In the experiment, students received a false but official-looking notice that they would not be allowed to graduate because they had unpaid tuition. They were told to visit an office bringing proof of payment where the researchers waited. In each case, regardless of the student’s proof, they were met with 1 of two statements:

But you can’t graduate without paying all of your tuition.”


And you can’t graduate without paying all of your tuition.” 

The subjects were evaluated on their reactions to each statement. Statements with “but” were evaluated to be 64% LESS EFFECTIVE than statements with “and”. “However” showed a meager improvement to 47% LESS EFFECTIVE.

My own experience proves this technique works! Let’s try it!

“I know you believe your car to be worth $10,400 and the market value is $10,200.”

“Yes, you indeed had the right of way and you were too fast for the conditions based on the law.”

“Your demand of $55,430 remains a mystery to me and the actual value of the case is not even the same number of digits.” 

So simple!

Get rid of “But“. Use “And” instead.

Stay tuned for more tips on how to disagree!