Apr 24, 2021

Create the illusion of control

The secret to gaining the upper hand in a negotiation is giving the other side the illusion of control. An effective way to do this is with calibrated, open-ended questions.

Calibrated questions have the power to educate your counterpart on what the problem is rather than causing conflict by telling them what the problem is. You have to design questions that will ease the conversation in the direction you want to go while letting the person you’re negotiating with think it’s their idea to take you there.

What are calibrated questions?

  1. They avoid words like “can”, “is”, “are”, “do” or “does”. These words are typically used in closed-ended questions that have “yes” or “no” answers.
  2. They start with “what” and “how”.

Here are some great examples:

  • What is the biggest challenge you face?
  • What about this is important to you?
  • How can I help to make this better for us?
  • How would you like me to proceed?
  • What is it that brought us into this situation?
  • How can we solve this problem?
  • What’s the objective? What are we trying to accomplish here?
  • How am I supposed to do that?

The implication of any well-designed calibrated question is that you want what the other person wants but you need their intelligence to overcome the problem.