In this example, the questioner may or may not know the answers, but she led her opponents to a planned conclusion. When no need exists to lead the opponent in a particular direction, use open-ended questions—questions that usually begin with how, why, or what. For example, "How would you recommend we close the gap?" "Why is plan A preferable to plan B?" "What is the proposal?" Open questions invite people to express their thinking freely. These are the types of questions that Dorothy Leads refers to as smart questions. A third type of question, the rhetorical question, is one that is asked not to get an answer, but for effect. Rather than seeking an answer, this type of question attempts to draw attention to a particular item. Examples of rhetorical questions include "What do
you think the vice president would say to something like that?" or "Do you really want us to believe that?" In general, avoid bipolar, either-or, or shotgun questions. Such a question as "Would you prefer a corner office with a computer, or would you rather have a larger desk and no extra chair?" needs to be divided into two questions. As the question is presently stated, confusion will result, or the opponent may even ask for both. Similarly, forced-choice questions will make your opponent feel cornered and may end the negotiations. Also, a wise negotiator avoids a rapid-fire questioning approach. An opponent needs time to respond, and the questioner needs to listen to the responses. A final effective use of questions is to get negotiations back on track when an opponent has been diverted. A simple question like "How can we relate what you're saying to ... ?" should get the most recent comments turned in a different, more relevant direction. To summarize, do not ask questions just for the sake of asking a question. Keep the purpose of the question in mind, listen for the right time, and then phrase the question to meet the prevailing needs. Answering Questions Negotiation is a game of asking and answering questions. The preparation and mental alertness required to ask purposeful questions are just as essential for answering them. Perhaps the most important preparation is to brainstorm and write down in advance questions most likely to arise. Ask an associate to act as devil's advocate and raise a host of hard questions before negotiation. The more a person prepares possible answers, the better those answers will be. Keep two universal guidelines in mind when answering questions: (1) never answer until the question is fully understood, and (2) take time to think through your answer. Besides applying these two guidelines, you can exercise two options in answering. First, you may answer the question accurately and completely. However, since such directness is not always advisable in many negotiations, the second option is to not be totally open when answering.
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- Spring '08
- Lao, MSO