Apr 28, 2021

Yes is nothing without how

Calibrated “how” questions are a surefire way to keep negotiations going. They put pressure on your counterpart to come up with answers and think about how to solve your problems.

The trick to these types of questions is that they are gentle ways of saying “no” without actually having to say it. Instead of a simple “no”, which would be viewed as working against the other person, “how” invites them to collaborate on a better solution with you.

By making your counterpart articulate implementation with carefully crafted “how” questions, they will believe the final solution is their idea. This is crucial because people always make more effort to implement a solution they think is theirs. That’s why negotiation is often called “the art of letting someone else have your way.”

There are two key questions you can ask to push your counterpart to defining success their way:

  1. How will we know we’re on track?
  2. How will we address things if we find we’re off track?

When they answer these questions, you should summarize their response back to them until you get a “That’s right.”

On the flip side, there are two phrases your counterpart will say if they don’t really believe the solution is theirs:

  1. You’re right.
  2. I’ll try.

“I’ll try” in particular should give you a sinking feeling in your stomach because this really means, “I plan to fail.”

If you hear either of these responses, you should dive back into more calibrated questions until victory is felt by the other side so you can be sure of smooth implementation.