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Calibrated Questions

Tags: negotiation

Open ended questions that are calibrated for a specific effect. It takes the aggression out of a confrontational statement or close-bended request that might otherwise anger your counterpart. The questions are squishy, and introduce ideas and requests without overbearing or pushy. This allows you to introduce what the problem is to your counterpart without telling them what the problem is. This empowers the counterparty to use their intelligence to overcome the problem.

Rules:

  • Avoid “can”, “is”, “are”, “do”, or “does” or other words that encourage “Yes”/“no” responses
  • Prefer:
    • “what” and “how” are the best
    • “who”, “where”, “when” encourage simple facts
    • “why” should be reserved for when it supports the change you are trying to achieve. It triggers defensiveness. e.g. “Why would your company ever change from your long-standing vendor and choose our company?”

Examples:

  • What about this important to you?
  • How can I help to make this better for us?
  • How woould you like me to proceed?
  • What is that brought us into this situation?
  • How can we solve this problem?
  • What’s the objective? / What are we trying to accomplish here?
  • How am I supposed to do that?