Why?

Description:   There’s always a certain amount of posturing in negotiation, but sometimes things can get unnecessarily heated.  WHEN USED PROPERLY, one of the simplest but most effective techniques for attacking a proposal you don’t like is to ask, “Why?”

“Why?” is a general-purpose counter-tactic that can keep you in control of a difficult negotiation.  If your counter-party hits you with a “now or never” or a “take it or leave it” ultimatum, you don’t have to respond directly.  Change the energy by CALMLY asking – “why is it so urgent all of a sudden – is everything OK at your firm?” 

Don’t be challenging or aggressive.  Just inquire why the situation is so high-stakes all of a sudden.  He may have a good reason that will help you decide – but more often than not he will have to back down after conceding that there really isn’t a good reason.

You use this tactic to slow down the pace of the exchanges, or to challenge a variable, proposal or procedure.  The key to making this work is to be non-threatening.

If they say, “final offer” or “this price is only good until 5 PM”, you can use this simple technique to redirect or gently refute an assumption.   Ask for an explanation of an assumption that underpins their position.

Use Why? as a gateway to information-gathering techniques we have already discussed.

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