“This Is How To Use Doubt To Win More Negotiations” – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“Doubt can be a mental strangler that leads some people to become less than who they are.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)

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“This Is How To Use Doubt To Win More Negotiations”

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

“I’m not sure. If we use that in our negotiations, our real intent might create doubt about our seriousness. That could cause the other negotiators to act unpredictably. You’re right. That’s something we have to consider and plan for, but by having them doubtful about our intent, we’ll keep them off balance. Then, when the time is right, we can be more definitive about our actions.” You’ve just been privy to a conversation that occurred between two negotiators about the use of doubt in their negotiation.

Doubt creates uncertainty. It’s a tactical tool that every smart negotiator uses in negotiations. Thus, good negotiators use it deliberately to motivate the opposing negotiator mentally. Doubt is also the tool that’s used in everyday life to encourage people to adopt one action versus another. Continue, and you’ll discover how you can become a more persuasive negotiator by injecting doubt into your negotiations. 


“It could have been this, or it could have been that. It could have been this person, or it might have been someone else. In either case, I’m unsure.” If you were listening to someone saying those words, what would you think? Of course, it would depend on the circumstances. But in general, would you assume the person wasn’t sure about a situation?

Finger-pointing, or uncertainty, creates doubt. And when you wish to use it in your negotiations, doubt can lead to indecision, which can become a strong ally. You might consider using doubt in the following manner during your bargaining sessions.

1. Cause doubt about a third party in a negotiation to deliver on their promise.

2. Misdirect the thought process of the other negotiator.

3. Create a sense of loss to move your opponent to accept your offer.

There is a multitude of ways to implement finger-pointing into your negotiations. Be creative in using this tool to enhance your outcomes.


To use doubt effectively, you must provoke someone’s emotions, and do it to the point that they’re touched emotionally. That means, sometimes, you’ll have to speak to their heart instead of their head. And at other times, a situation may call for logic. That’s when you’d talk to their head. The more intense your actions and words, the more you’ll stimulate that person emotionally.

To heighten my point, please recall the details of the first vivid memory that comes to your mind. Now, notice how you feel emotionally. Depending on the situation you remembered, your emotional state has shifted. The shift may be slight or severe. But it was altered to a degree. That’s the emotional shift you can infuse into the mind of your negotiation counterpart by sowing his thoughts with doubts.

Raising Doubt With Questions

There are different types of questions you can use to raise doubt about a person or situation. And when you use certain kinds of questions, you shift a person’s perception and perspective. That’s the purpose of using specific queries in your negotiations. Take note of two types of questions in particular.

  • Assumptive Questions

Assumptive questions convey a sense of awareness of a situation than what might defy actual reality. As an example, if you ask someone when was the last time they filed for bankruptcy, the implication is, they filed for bankruptcy. Even if they say they’ve never filed for bankruptcy, if you ask that question in the right venue, you’ll raise doubt about whether they did so. Thus, you can use assumptive questions to imply you know more about a situation and raise doubt about someone’s character. And while they’re defending their position, they won’t be attacking you.

  • Accusatory Questions

Accusatory questions can be a form of assumptive questions. But a negotiator would use these questions in a more sinister manner. One way to use this tool would be to disqualify a third party in a negotiation. In that case, you might ask, did you hear from others that he reneged on the agreement?

If your negotiation counterpart was suspicious about his third-party contender fulfilling the obligation of a deal, an accusatory question might be the ploy that sealed the deal for you. Just be aware that such accusations can harm you in the future. Thus, be mindful of using this tactic.    

Attention Grabber

Have you observed how your attention is captivated by some activities more than others? It happens with everyone. One offer is always more appealing than another in a negotiation. And that can quicken the pace of the talks towards the outcome you seek. To that end, people use doubt in everyday life to command someone’s attention. Before entering into a negotiation, consider how you might use doubt to snatch someone’s attention and have it placed on another point of focus.  

Playing The Role

To use doubt effectively in your negotiations, you must perpetuate the role required to make doubt feasible. Thus, in your talks, if the other negotiator intends to increase his gains, you might play the role of someone casting doubt about whether he can accomplish it. That might be the role to portray against someone who embraces a challenge. On the other hand, if confronted by a negotiator that sought to avoid risk, you’d downplay the role of doubt being the possible culprit that could prevent him from achieving his goals. Therefore, to maximize the use of doubt in your negotiations, you must exact the proper role. That will enhance your efforts.


Don’t worry about misusing doubt in your negotiations. Everyone messes up sometimes. What counts is what you do after you mess up.

To use doubt effectively in your negotiations, you must pay attention to details. Because at times, they’ll be small nuances that require you to shift your focus to a more beneficial aspect about what doubt has raised. That little shift in detail can become the multiplying enhancer that improves your negotiations substantially. 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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