The Secret to Salary Negotiation


Jonathan Horrocks


September 30, 2021

Want to know the real secret to salary negotiation? It’s not in manipulation or bullish assertion nor is it about making a stubborn stand.

It’s in silence. Yes, silence. Can you keep that secret quiet?

In all seriousness, smart silence at the right time is the most effective tool you can use in salary negotiation. Or, to quote Charles de Gaulle, “Silence is the ultimate weapon of power.”

Here’s how to harness that weapon during a salary negotiation and win the result you desire.

Get the ball rolling

Before you give your boss the silent treatment, you’ve got to bite the bullet and ask for the meeting first. It’s really quite simple: if you don’t ask, you don’t get. But before you do, you need to prepare.

Prior to your salary negotiation, decide on the key points you want to get across. Take the time to do some relevant research beforehand. Arm yourself with knowledge of average industry salaries, summarise the positive impact you’ve made within your role and outline the value-added skills you bring to the table (especially where these skills are uncommon or particularly beneficial).

Give yourself everything you need to be quietly confident. Then make your move. Arrange the meeting, well-informed on all the information you need, and state your case.

Be clear, concise & compelling

Silence doesn’t come yet. First, you have to speak up. The negotiation is your opportunity to voice your worth, and you need to use this time wisely. That means putting considered thought into what you want to say. It doesn’t mean waffling or rattling on about the same points or how unfair it is that Dave is on more money than you but does half the work.

So, be clear, concise and compelling. You’ve done your research, now express your reasoning clearly; remaining succinct in your argument and convincing in the various evidences you use to support your claim. Instead of telling them how hard you work, explain how you’ve helped the business grow, how you’ve helped bring in extra income. Justifying why you’re worth the salary you want is half the battle. Ideally, your work should speak for itself, all you have to do is draw attention to it.

Embrace the silence

When you’ve laid your stake in the ground, it’s time to stop talking. You’ve said all you need to say – anything else is superfluous. Now, that’s not to say that you can’t put forward polite counter-arguments where necessary. You can and you should, but when you do so, pause for a solid 5 seconds. In that gap, the other person will often volunteer additional information or track back to concede to your original point.

Silence begs a response. Yes, there’ll be long pauses. Yes, there’ll be uncomfortable moments. But you haven’t come to make small talk: you’ve come to get a salary boost.  Stay focused.

In negotiations, silence speaks volumes. It’s a subtle tactic used to measure the other person’s confidence in their stance; a means to test their authority. We all have an innate need to keep conversation going and silence makes the majority of us feel uncomfortable. When you own the silence, you own the conversation.

What do you have to lose?

According to industry research, only 44% of people ask for a higher salary. Needless to say, almost 100% want one. Even worse, studies show that not negotiating salary causes the average person to miss out on around £300k by retirement age.

To get the sum you’re worth, know when to speak up and when to hold a strong silence. Josh Billings once said: “Silence is the hardest argument to refute.” Keep that in mind during your next salary negotiation and let silence be your secret to success.

Keen to get more out of your career? There’s plenty more where that came from, check out the rest of our career advice articles.

Operating Director

Jonathan Horrocks

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