We can forgive those that conceal information. But we should not forgive ourselves for lacking the skills to uncover it. -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)
“Uncover Hidden Information
3 Safe Ways To Win In Negotiations”
People don’t realize they’re always negotiating!
During negotiations, information is king. Meaning, the more information you have, the more significant the options you can select to progress the negotiation. So, negotiators should always ask themselves, how can I uncover hidden information that might benefit my negotiation efforts?
Knowing how to extract concealed information gives you a distinct advantage during negotiations. And that is why you should add this skill to your negotiation repertoire. What follows are three ways you can uncover hidden information, along with how and when to use it.
1. Ask Probing Questions
Most savvy negotiators know the value of questions to a negotiation; when asking questions, you gather information. But the quality of the answers is determined by the quality of the question posed. Thus, the more specific your question to the answer you seek, the more significant response you will obtain. And that is one of the central premises in uncovering hidden information – ask probing questions that will expose the information you seek.
For example, suppose a negotiator sought information about her counterpart making a better deal in the past. In that case, she might ask a variation of the following questions.
1. Have you made a better offer in the past? This closed-ended query allows the respondent to say yes or no. If yes, a follow-up question, when, would be required. Suppose the answer is no, the follow-up question of why not might be posed. In either case, there is a better question that may get to the heart of what she is seeking. It is:
2. Under what circumstances have you extended a better offer in the past? By posing this type of question, an assumptive question, a negotiator positions herself as having more information than she is disclosing. That is because assumptive questions project the impression that you may know more than you do.
If the counterpart refutes the statement by saying, I have never offered a better deal. That individual has answered with definitive information about what he did in the past. If, instead, he rebuts your question by asking, where did you get that information, consider that he may be withholding information that he does not want to disclose.
Always remember, the quality of your question determines the value of the response.
2. Observe Body Language
Not only should you probe using specific questions to uncover hidden information in your negotiations, but you should also observe the body language someone displays while answering questions. I suggest you be very in tune with what their body says. There can be disputes between someone’s words and their body gestures. And if there is a difference, lean more to following what you see versus what someone says.
Our body always seeks to stay in a state of comfort. When it is out of that state, we emit signals that indicate that something is internally wrong. Thus, when someone says, I agree with you, while shaking their head no, the body gesture disagrees with that person’s words. Note that. Their body does not wish to mislead you – that is why you should adhere to the signals it sends.
Therefore, note any differences between a negotiator’s words and body language. Do that when probing to uncover secret information as the other negotiator responds to your questions. And if you sense differences, consider deepening your exploration to discover the hidden information you seek.
3. Be Patient
When attempting to uncover hidden information, there will be occasions when its exposure is slow. Brow-beating someone in some situations will cause the information to be deferred longer. To speed its progress, consider using extended periods of silence after posing your questions.
Since most people, including negotiators, become uncomfortable when exposed to silence, that is an excellent way to extract additional information. In essence, using silence to allow your opposition to present confidential information at his pace may permit him to do so more freely.
Uncovering Hidden Information – When To Use It
Once you have uncovered a sliver of previously undisclosed information, assess its potential value. Then, weigh the possibility that your opponent may be withholding more vital info. Sometimes, a negotiator will give you a morsel of secret information in an attempt to stop you from seeking more beneficial insights that can further your negotiation efforts.
So, validate the uncovered hidden information to assure that it is bonafide. Then, determine when you can maximize its use. The opportunity may occur during a stalemate or as you draw closer to the end of the negotiation. In either case, you will have information that enhances your bargaining position. And if you have to trade it to improve your situation, do so at an optimum time.
Information is only valuable in negotiations to the degree you have it, and you are aware of how and when to use it. By employing the suggestions mentioned prior, you will be able to uncover hidden information more easily. Coupling that insight with knowing how and when to use the hidden information you have discovered will give you a distinctive advantage in the negotiation. And everything will be right with the world.
Remember, you’re always negotiating!
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