When Negotiations Are Deadlocked Ask Open-Ended Questions

If negotiations have stalled you cannot stop trying to reach the bargaining goal you have set for yourself. You must keep seeking accommodation. However, sometimes during some negotiations the parties simply cannot agree on the points they seek. If you determine that resolution is possible but difficult, follow these steps and you will find your chances of success greatly increased.

First, ask open-ended questions. This means you should ask questions that cannot be answered in one or two words, especially “yes” or “no.” If you ask “Did you?” your counter-party in the negotiations can answer with “yes” or “no” and you should avoid that. A short answer allows the person answering to withdraw inside himself or herself and avoid opening up psychologically.

If they are allowed to continue to do this it will affect the pattern of negotiation they take. They will tend to refuse accommodation. They will be short even on questions they could answer fully. This will means you will not “enter into their world.” You will not be able to get an adequate appraisal of their goals. Remember, they will not openly, honestly, tell you what they want to get out of the negotiation.

Then, listen intently to the answers you receive. Ask yourself whether the answers you get are to be fully trusted. Is your negotiation counter-party opening up so as to let you appraise what goals are sought? For you to be truly involved in the negotiation you must know what the counter-party seeks. How can you learn the subtle nuances regarding your counter-parties’ goals if you only get “yes” or “no” answers? Open-ended questions allow you to learn more.

Next, clarify what the counter-party says. Listen to determine fully what is the significance of this answer? Repeat what your counter-party says to verify what apparently is intended so you can learn whether this is a goal of the counter-party. Ask the counter-party to fill out his or her answers with more explanation.

Next, you should tailor your questions to fit the answers you get and to move the discussions out in the open. The information you get you will give you the power to determine whether there is any agreement possible. This power is useful to you and you should not shy away from acquiring it. I do not mean you should abuse the power, just that you should take it if possible.

This power is a factor of negotiations and you ought to know about it. You ought to try to use it. When you ask open-ended questions you are able to learn much more about the story of your negotiations. There will be a better flow to the negotiation and allow greater exchange. You will ultimately be better off with this information acquired. Even though this power is important many are afraid to seize it because they are generally reluctant to take any power.

Next, try to steer questions toward the area favoring your positions. This will gain additional power and allow additional openness. When you share your information with your counter-party it will encourage openness and will allow additional information to come forth. This, of course, will bring more openness to the discussions.

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