Negotiation Quick Tips: Asking Questions

In a recent post on the Harvard Program on Negotiation (PON) Daily Blog, the PON staff writes about asking questions in a way that promotes trust and understanding. We have written about this in an earlier post.

The lesson from the PON staff is to craft questions that lead to learning and don’t reflect advocacy or promote defensiveness.

Two types of questions to avoid:

Leading Questions–these are questions such as “Don’t you think…?” or “Can’t you see…?” These types of questions result in defensive answers or no answers at all.

Loaded Questions–these are questions where the questioner uses evaluative words such as “inexperienced,” “self-serving,” “uninformed,” etc. We can all remember hearing questions like this.

The PON staff say that, “Both types of questions can trigger defensiveness and emotional reactions.”

On the other hand, crafting open-ended, non-leading, non-loaded questions can be difficult. The key is to try gathering information and exploring priorities. The PON staff suggests something like, “I’m interested in hearing your opinion….” Or, “Tell me why you think this option would work better?” Or, “Can you tell me more?”

The lesson from the PON blog post: “When we approach our counterparts with genuine interest and respect, they are likely to respond in kind.”

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