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6 Questions to Ask to Improve Your Negotiating Skills

Tuesday, July 7, 2020
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Often during negotiations we rely on our intuition. However, there are tangible skills that can move our negotiating abilities beyond intuition and into the realm of strategy. Fortunately, being an effective negotiator is a skill you can learn.

Start by Asking the Right Questions

Asking questions (and listening to the answers) is one of the most effective techniques negotiators can employ. When we think about asking questions, we usually focus on getting information from our counterpart. It is equally important to ask questions that allow you to effectively evaluate that information.

Here are six questions you can ask yourself to protect yourself from becoming overly influenced by your feelings as well as leverage empathy, data, outside resources, and your prior experiences as assets in the negotiation.

1. What Is My Body Telling Me?
Take a moment to breathe and notice your own sensations. SBNRR will guide you through this process: stop, breathe, notice (your body sensations), reflect (on what you are feeling, even label it), and respond. Avoid negotiating if you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT). If possible, engage with your counterpart when you are at your best during the day (for example, in the morning, if you are a morning person).

2. Who Is Affected by the Outcome of the Negotiation and How?
Considering the effect on others forces you to widen your focus. Make a comprehensive list of everyone who will be affected (in addition to you and your counterpart) to improve your understanding of the consequences of a proposal.

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3. What Data Do You Have?
Facts can help you make an informed decision. While intuition has a place, to negotiate more effectively, approach your negotiation as an investigation. Engage your rational mind by focusing on concrete information. What facts do you know or has your counterpart presented?

4. How Can I Put Myself in my Counterpart’s Shoes?
Often we are so invested in our own perceptions that we assign little or no value to the other person’s point of view. A good way to shift your perspective is to reverse role play. You play your counterpart in the negotiation and have another person play you. As you have to listen to what “you” are saying, and honestly take your counterpart’s perspective, you are likely to get some real insight into their thinking.

5. What Resources Do I Need?
Recognizing you don’t know everything and asking for help is a sign of strength. Some proposals are difficult to evaluate because we lack enough data or experience. A credible outsider may have the information or experience you lack. Some negotiations benefit from the use of a mediator or facilitator to help (or challenge) both parties to see their value and priority conflicts in a different light.

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6. What Can I Learn From Experience?
Look back on your negotiation history and ask whether you’ve ever been in a situation like this before. What are the similarities or differences? Looking at your negotiation experience generally, when have you been most successful?

Get Started

To succeed, start small: Use one or two questions consistently. With practice, you will become more comfortable and more effective. As you increase the number of questions you rely on automatically, you will also increase your negotiating effectiveness.

Editor’s note: This post is adapted from the Tips & Resources section of Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies news page.

About the Author

Susan Borke, principal of BorkeWorks, is passionate about helping people develop as effective negotiators. Susan gained more than 25 years of negotiation training experience with domestic and international commercial companies, educational institutions, and nonprofits while serving as a media executive at CBS and in-house counsel at National Geographic. She believes that training should engage participants, and she offers highly interactive programs that earn rave reviews from attendees and human resources departments.

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