Negotiating Tip 10: Responding to Questions

Written by John Hamilon Posted On Sunday, 09 May 2021 00:00

Good negotiators are adept at gaining information from their opponent by asking questions. Good negotiators also know that they will be asked questions in return.

How we respond to questions can be critical to determining the final result of any negotiation.

To improve our capability in responding to questions, consider the following six rules, guidelines and suggestions.

Good negotiators always pause before answering a question. That pause sends a powerful message and provides time to consider the right answer.

Many questions are asked of us, not to gain information or a significant verbal response, but to put us on the defensive and take control. Focus any answer on tactfully regaining control. For example, there are times when we should delay answering their question and instead compliment their question and consider asking why they asked it.

Not all questions deserve an answer. Responding with silence, a pause or a puzzled look can be most disarming to our opponent. Ignoring their question and, after that pause, proceeding with a question of our own may be just the right technique or mechanism. This can work wonders when negotiating with your family, especially your kids!

Answers to questions should not be framed to please our opponent. Being too accommodating with our answers can send all the wrong messages, i.e. "I'm ready to concede." or "Keep asking and I'll keep making concessions."

If your answer is likely to come across as combative, soften it by first saying, "You may not like to hear me say this, but ...."

Consider answering questions like today's politicians do. They give an answer, but not to the question being asked. They typically answer the question they wished they had been asked. They stay "on message".

Go into negotiations thinking of what you'd hope your opponent would ask. Formulate that answer and be prepared to give that answer to some question they will ask. A bridging statement will make it work, such as, "You bring up a good point, but first let me say...."

The right answer is always a concise answer. Saying too much is the downfall of many a negotiator. Chose your words carefully. Use more short sentences. Think quickly if your response might be one you'll regret. Remember, a closed mouth gathers no foot. You can't 'unring the bell' and take back something you said in error.

Find one or more of these question response techniques and add them to your negotiating skills. They'll serve you well as you Keep Negotiating.

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