“This Is How To Ask The Best Questions In A Negotiation” – Negotiation Insight

“The right question, asked at the right time, can be the gateway to greater knowledge. But the wrong question, no matter when asked, will never garner the insight you otherwise may have received. Ask better questions.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)

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“This Is How To Ask The Best Questions In A Negotiation”

People don’t realize; they’re always negotiating.

“But that’s not what you asked me.” “Yeah – but you knew what I meant, didn’t you?” That exchange occurs between people daily. One person makes a statement or asks a question, and the other person answers based on what he inferred or what he believed the intent was. Being mentally aware of this fact is the first step to asking the best questions, whether those questions occur in your negotiation or other realms of your life. Continue, and you’ll discover additional ways to ask better questions.  

Personality Type

Based on your personality and that of the person you’re engaging, one or both of you may be more or less likely to ask specific questions. That may result from either party not wishing to offend the other. In that situation, be aware of silent signals that shield hidden inquiries – the ones concealing queries not asked.

If you sense that to be your situation in a negotiation, position yourself by stating you don’t intend to offend the other negotiator through your questioning line. Let her know you’re only seeking the best information through the questions you ask to help both of you better reach an amicable negotiation outcome. Be careful not to give the appearance of being superior. That will make her more guarded and more reluctant to answer questions openly.

Pushback To Questions

When someone pushes back on your question, unless they become an irritant, don’t get upset. As a negotiator, your queries are your opening to expand on the information you gather. Just keep in mind, the person asking questions in a negotiation is the one controlling the negotiation. Because when you’re asking questions, and someone’s answering them, you’re gathering information – and gathering information in a negotiation gives you control. So, keep in mind to be thoughtful of getting the answers you seek by asking the best questions. The following are question formats you might consider using, how you might frame them, and where they may lead.

Question Formats

There are many forms a question adopts when seeking information. Note the following ones. And determine which combination you’ll use to enhance your attempts at gathering more significant insights.

Leading Questions

Leading queries are a form of questions that directs someone towards a sought after outcome. Those types of questions can appear as – I know there’s a better deal you can offer, right – or placed as – what might we do together to make this deal work? Those inquiry forms can be a good questioning line, but a respondent can answer yes or no in some cases. He may also toss the question back to you by asking what you think you can do to enhance the situation. Be ready for the toss backs by having additional inquiries prepared to gather more negotiation information.   

Assumptive Questions

You might start an assumptive question with ‘when.’ For example, you could say, when was the last time you offered a discount on this product? In this case, the assumption is that he offered a deal in the past. Even if the premise is inaccurate and the other negotiator says he’s never given a discount, the question can then be used as a setup to request a reduction in the price (e.g., how much can you discount the price, now?)

You may note that some assumptive questions may start with, when, at what point, how, who might be able to …, etc. In every case, any form of this question type will allow you to gather more information than you had. And that’s the value-add that this form of question brings to your toolbox of negotiation questions.   

Intimidation Questions

He trades in fear and intimidation, which is what a bystander might say about a negotiator that uses menacing means to weaken his opponent’s will. Queries intended to intimidate a negotiator may assume the appearance of an assumptive question. You’ll see them asked like, you know you can do better, don’t you? An extra flare of genuine anger may accompany it. The difference between intimidation and assumptive questions is the intent behind the questioning and its delivery. With an intimidation query, the objective is to either browbeat the other negotiator into submission or possibly scare him to the point of not having his assertions challenged.

While intimidation questions can be the appropriate form to use in the right situation (i.e., you have more positional power than the person with whom you’re negotiating), it can also be extremely hazardous. And that’s what makes this type of question dicey. You run the risk of motivating the other negotiator to dig in his heels and become intransigent. That can inspire him to fight like a person with his back to the wall. Therefore, be cautious about leading with this type of question in your negotiation. It could set the tone for discontent amongst the parties involved in the talks.

In all cases, if the negotiation hits a rough patch, you can use a ‘what if’ form of questioning to get it back on track. As an example, you might ask, what if we table this item and come back to it later? Can we do that? Then, cycle through the forms of questions mentioned.   


Questions are a way to gather more knowledge, insight, and a sense of direction in a negotiation. Thus, a well-timed question, taking into account where you are in your discussion and with whom you’re negotiating, can be the difference between success and a knife in the back. To gain greater insight, cooperation, and more significant outcomes in your negotiation, ask better questions. In so doing, you’ll get much more of what you want. 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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