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"I'll never die wondering"

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the Russell Kennedy Women's Network breakfast where Marika Hubble-Marriott and Suzanne Rieschieck presented on the negotiation tips they have learned over their successful careers.

While there were plenty of great tips discussed, what resonated with me was Suzanne's comment "I'll never die wondering". The power of great questions is an essential skill of a great negotiator. Open questions, asked of genuine curiosity, will assist you in identifying the key concerns and interests of the other party and allow you to find the best solutions for your joint problem.

Here's two quick tips for asking great questions.

1. Make friends with TED

No, not TED of the influential videos but TED - Tell, Explain, Describe. Sometimes the best way to ask a question is not, grammatically speaking, to ask a question at all. Using TED is a great way to encourage the other side to talk. Subconsciously, the fact that you've used these terms signals to the person that you are willing to listen more than a simple question.

An example of TED in action

You're negotiating a new consulting assignment and the client says to you "Sorry, this just isn't going to work. The board will have too many objections." A natural response here would be "What are those objections?". Instead, a response of "Tell me more about that" may get you a broader answer. It may be that the answer describes not the objections themselves, but the impact of those objections for the party themselves. You'll have a clearer idea of the overall picture and more scope to come up with solutions.

2. Once you've asked, zip your lips

Something that I see way too often is what I call the "ask and answer" problem. When this happens, one of three things happens:

  • the speaker asks a question and then answers it for themselves (and the other party often won't correct them if they're wrong

  • the speaker asks a question, followed by another question, followed by another question. When the other person finally gets a word in, chances are they have forgotten the first few questions and answer only the last ones.

  • the speaker asks a question and, when the other person pauses to think about the answer, the speaker rephrases the question, assuming the other person didn't understand it. This can make the other person feel insulted, breaking rapport and damaging the conversation.

If this sounds like you, find a way to remind yourself to ask one question at a time and leave space for an answer to come.

What other tips do you have for asking great questions?

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