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What instead of Why

Asking ‘Why’ looks backward and sounds like an accusation. But the bigger problem is that when we feel we understand why someone did something, we can blame that reason and understand how we are separate from it.

You won’t find a single ‘why’ question in Ask For More. Instead of asking ‘Why did you do that?, you might ask ‘What made you do that?’. Asking ‘what’ based questions obtain higher levels of internal and external awareness that leads to better outcomes in every transaction you have.

 

The Question starts with You

Every negotiation starts with asking yourself probing questions. You must first get clarity on what you want out of the negotiation, before you consider what the other party’s interests are.

Look into the mirror before you look out to the window. 

 

Looking In the Mirror

Question #1 What’s the Problem I Want to Solve?

If Albert Einstein has one hour to solve a problem, he’d spend fifty-five minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about the solutions.It takes time to get clarity on your problem. But the time you spent defining the problem, usually comes back to you later in the problem-solving stage. 

“Spend time to save time.”

Daniel Kahneman in his best-selling book Thinking, Fast and Slow tells us humans tend to avoid challenging questions in favor of answering narrower and easier questions. Consider this. “Our junior employee satisfaction rating is extremely low.” Do you see any problem with this problem statement? Several, actually. 

First it looks backward. Yes, you want to focus on the problem before jumping into considering a solution. But you also want to define the problem in a way that gives us a clear destination to steer forward. Nothing about this problem definition helps you think about the potential solution.

Second, it sounds negative. It focuses on where you do not want to be, instead of where you want to be. If someone asks you where you’re going, you wouldn’t say “Well, I know I don’t want to end up hitting the post.”

Last, focusing on the rating alone is a narrow definition of the problem. Rating is merely a representation of one of many areas you will actually need to solve.

Five Steps to Define Your Problem Clearly and Completely

  1. Take five minutes to think about and write down the problem you want to solve
  2. Summarize what you’ve written in one sentence
  3. Reframe anything negative into positive
  4. Turn your sentence into a question (starting with how, what, who or when)
  5. Define your problem broadly (you want your question to capture the full picture)

 

Question #2 What Do I Need?

Now that you’ve defined the problem, sit quietly for a few minutes and give yourself the patience and time to answer this question “What do I need?” To have needs is human. To understand them, divine.

Many people confuse their needs with demands. Your demand might be “I’ve waited ten years for promotion and now it’s my turn”. Your need, on the other hand, isn’t always visible or explicit. “Needs are the reasons why we make demands.”

When you know your needs, you uncover a deeper meaning that helps you and other people have a successful negotiation.

But I Still Don’t Know My Needs.

Here are three tips to help you through this possible isse:

  1. Think about what you’re currently finding intolerable then flip it around. 
  2. Separate yourself from what other people think or believe you should need.
  3. Ask yourself “What’s the worst, least flattering thing(s), I could possibly need in this situation?” 

This exercise in listing your ‘worst’ possible needs is important because we often censor what we need. There’s nothing wrong about the needs for money, attractiveness or achievements. When we ignore our needs, we end up denying a piece of who we are, limiting what we can achieve in negotiation.

 

Question #3 What Do I Feel?

After uncovering your needs, you must deal with the ‘F-word’ – Feelings. Feelings are always present in every transaction no matter how much you try to hide or ignore them. Feelings directly impact our decision-making and other cognitive abilities. We can learn to manage our feelings (especially with preparation and experience) to make them work for us, instead of against us. However, there’s one ‘F-word’ that you don’t want during every negotiation ever – Fear. 

“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”

So… you have looked into the mirror and confronted your feelings. Give yourself a pat on the back. Now, we’ll move onto a question that helps you come up with an excellent solution to your well-defined problem.

 

Question #4 How Have I Handled This Successfully In The Past?

Your past success often contains lots of clues to help you negotiate better in the present and in the future. But even if success back then is quite different from the problem in front of you, just knowing that you’ve been successful in the past helps you put emotional gas in your tank to go forth and close the deal.

But I don’t have a similar success.

Break down the past negotiation to think about the steps your current situation involves and what you might need to be successful. Pay attention to common elements. It might take time to work through your mental baggage in actually recognizing prior events.

 

Question #5 What’s The First Step?

One step at a time builds momentum. The idea of deciding the next step is to stop you from feeling as if you know all the answers now. Because most of the time, you won’t. So, instead of trying to see all the turns you’ll need to make on your way, let’s focus on the next very turn at this moment.

Congratulations. You’ve completed the mirror section. Before we go to the window, take one final look at your answers and summarize your thoughts. Great… now you might be thinking. “Do I really need to do this with someone else?” First of all, that’s a closed question. A better and more open question would be “What do I have to gain by asking questions of someone else?” 

 

Looking Out the Window

5 Tips to Help You Ask Questions to Other Party

  1. Land the plane (have the courage to land the plane, and ask a question… that’s it)
  2. Enjoy the silence.
  3. Ask follow up questions.
  4. Summarize and ask for feedback.
  5. Listen for what has not been said.

Armed with these five tips, we’ll learn how to gain new perspectives into anyone or anything you might encounter during your negotiation.

Question #6 Tell Me….

“Tell Me…” invites the other person to share with you their view of the problem, goal and any important details you don’t see. It’s the negotiation equivalent of casting a giant net into the water to see how much you can catch. 

Land the plane.

There are many ways you can ask “Tell Me…”:

  1. When you initiate the negotiation – “Thanks so much for making time for me today…. Before we get down to discussing the future, I’d love it if you could tell me, from your perspective, how things have gone this past year.”
  2. When someone else has initiated the negotiation – “You asked to meet with me today. Tell me what’s on your mind.”
  3. When you’ve both agreed to discuss a particular topic – “Tell me your thoughts on the settlement. Tell me about the position you’re looking to fill.”

Enjoy the silence.

Challenge yourself on how high you can go before you break the silence. If you’re on the phone, take this moment to stretch or just gaze out the window. “Tell Me…” is a big question so it may take time for other people to come up with an answer. Give them that time.

Ask follow-up.

In addition to “Tell Me..”, you can ask “Tell Me More…” as a follow up question to keep the conversation open for as long as possible. “Tell me more about the summit.” will not only get you far more information than “How many days did the summit run?”, it will also keep the conversation open for much longer.

Summarize and ask for feedback.

After you summarize what the other person has said, ask for feedback. Say something like “That’s everything I have in my notes. What did I miss?” By asking for feedback, you make sure that you learn the most possible from the conversation and that the other person knows that you really want to hear them.

Listen to what has not been said.

Finally listen to what has not been said. You’ll want to pay attention to other persons’ expression and body language as they’re answering the question and giving you feedback. 

 

Question #7 What Do You Need?

Never make the mistake of assuming you know the other person’s needs just because their demands sound familiar. For example, if you’re approaching a buyer at Target to sell your home product, you could ask “What do you need from your vendors” or “What do you need from this deal?” If you’re negotiating with your spouse over the home budget, you might say “When we’re thinking about how we prioritize our money, what do you need?” 

 

Question #8 What Are Your Concerns?

Ask their concerns and understand where they’re coming from. The person may  not have the concerns about you but about something or someone else. So don’t leave it to chance. Take heart and ask. 

 

Question #9 How Have You Handled This Successfully In The Past?

Power priming can be especially helpful when you face a challenging negotiation. Helping the other person recall his or her prior success acts as a power prime. By asking this question, you remind the person when things went well for them and that they can place this current negotiation into context.

 

Question #10 What’s The First Step?

Partnering with someone else in the decision-making process not only leads to short-term and long-term benefits. Asking someone for their ideas on first steps also benefits your relationships with them. More than ever before, experts are studying what leads to healthy personal relationships, and the answers include qualities like empathy, responsiveness to partner’s concerns and trust.

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Wrapping It All Up

Now that you’ve completed all ten questions, let’s summarize. Here’s what it looks like:

Mirror Window
  1. What’s the problem I want to solve?
  2. What do I need?
  3. What do I feel?
  4. How have I handled this successfully in the past?
  5. What’s the first step?
  • Tell me…
  • What do you need?
  • What are your concerns?
  • How have you handled this successfully in the past?
  • What’s the first step?

Kyaw Wai Yan Tun

Hi, I'm Wai Yan. I love designing visuals and writing insightful articles online. I see it as my way of making the world a more beautiful and insightful place.