“Do You Ask ‘Why’ To Get The Best Negotiation Results” – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“Not until you know why, do you have the greatest understanding.” – Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (click to Tweet)

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“Do You Ask ‘Why’ To Get The Best Negotiation Results”

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.

Why should I? Why can’t I? Why is that? What value does that have for you, and why? Those are forms of questions using why that you can use to gather more information in a negotiation.

In a negotiation, a negotiator makes an offer, the other negotiator assesses it, reframes it, and the process continues. It does so until the negotiators conclude the negotiation. During that process, some negotiators don’t realize they can take shortcuts to reach their goal. They can do so by asking their counterpart what he wants and why he wants it. His answers reveal the crux of what he seeks from the negotiation. From that insight, you’ll have a better idea of what offers to make to reach your negotiation goals. Here’s how you can use ‘why’ to get the best outcomes in your negotiations.

Why Ask Why

Remember when you were a kid. When someone did not grant your request, you sought an explanation. That was usually in the form of asking why they didn’t give you what you desired. Thus, the hidden power in asking why someone has a particular opinion allows for the flow of more information in a negotiation, from which you have a more significant opportunity to shape your negotiation offers.


Asking questions is the most direct route to getting valuable information when you negotiate. But how and when you ask questions determines the hidden value in the response. Observe these guidelines to maximize the questions you use to gather more meaningful information in your negotiation.  

1. Timing of questions – You’re more than likely aware that timing plays an essential role in obtaining your request. That’s true in life and negotiations. To make the timing of your questions more effective, offer them when the other negotiator is more versus less likely to grant your request. To assess when that may be most apparent, pose your questions when your counterpart senses gain if he consents to your offer. To nudge him along that path, don’t forget to ask why he wants what he’s seeking.

2. Assumptive questions – This form of question conveys the sense that you may possess additional knowledge. Thus, assumptive questions (e.g., you know that, right) can be a vital extractor of other information. And, when you follow up a response to this form of a question with, why, the answer can become illuminated – creating the opportunity for enhanced information.  

3. Question phraseology – Some words trigger a negotiator’s thoughts in one direction versus another. That’s why you must be mindful of the words you use. At specific points in the negotiation, it might behoove you to use the same phrases and words as your counterpart – when seeking to bond with him is an example. At other times, you may wish not to do so – when displaying leadership or nonconformity. You can use why to gather more insight into how your opponent’s mood and mind shifts in either situation. Thus, in this case, why would serve as a barometer to the feedback to the question you asked.  

Qualifying Why

When asking a question, sometimes you’ll be asked to qualify it. The request may stem from the other negotiator not fully understanding your intent. Or, he may be seeking a reframing to shift the perspective of your question. If it’s the latter, be mindful of what he may be attempting to do. By reframing your question, you may be de-emphasizing a point that might serve you better if the query remained in its original form.

Therefore, if you suspect he’s asking you to paraphrase or reframe the query, ask him why he’s seeking further clarification. You might also accompany your request by stating that you’re asking why he wants the question paraphrased to understand better what he’s seeking. By doing that, you eliminate the possibility that he perceives your request as being snippet or, worse, a reflection of his lack of comprehension ability.  

Reframing Why

When you ask a question during a negotiation, initially, you may not get an answer that satisfies your purpose. In some cases, some negotiators will become irritated. Don’t let that happen to you. Instead, stay grounded and keep your head in the negotiation. That means don’t clutter your mind by wondering if your counterpart is attempting to be evasive, intentionally.

Instead of bombarding your mind with potential ill thoughts, reframe the question. For example, if you ask the other negotiator why he’s seeking his outcome, and his response is, my boss told me that’s the best we can do. You might respond with several questions.

1. Why did your boss say that’s the best you can do?

2. Why does your boss think that’s the best you can do?

3. Do you know why your boss has those thoughts?

4. Do you know why your boss has not considered other options? That’s an assumptive question. The assumption being, there are other options.

Questions like those will help you reframe the conversation such that you shift it slightly. That slight shift may be all that it takes to have the other negotiator alter his thinking and become open to your suggestions and offers. Never overlook the value of reframing a question or situation. Reframing can be the magic key that opens the negotiation to a new land of opportunities.


Why has always been an excellent way to gather additional information in a negotiation. More than likely, you’ve used this form of questioning to obtain more insight, from which you continued your quest. Were you aware of what you were doing?

In your negotiations, remember the power of using why to gather more significant insight. That’ll allow you to enhance your negotiation efforts. And everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

Listen to Greg’s podcast at https://c-suitenetwork.com/radio/shows/greg-williams-the-master-negotiator-and-body-language-expert-podcast/

After reading this article, what are you thinking? I’d like to know. Reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com

To receive Greg’s free “Negotiation Tip of the Week” and the “Negotiation Insight,” click here https://themasternegotiator.com/greg-williams/

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