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Questioning & Listening Skills9 Things Every Professional Must Know

Questioning and listening skills are very important for the professional negotiator. Having those two skills will give you the edge you need during negotiations.

For this article, we are going to learn the 9 things you need to learn about questioning and listening skills. First, we’ll discuss why they are important and how you can apply these skills to help you land great deals when negotiating. We are also going to tell you the 5 mistakes that you should avoid when asking questions in negotiations. 

After reading this article, you should have the necessary questioning and listening skills you need to assess and dominate every negotiation!

Why You ShouldStay Quiet and Listen as Negotiator

Silence is an effective tactic when you’re negotiating. People tend to talk a lot when they’re nervous, and you might have done this before in one of your negotiations. But when you talk too much, you miss out on important variables in the negotiation.

So, when you’re negotiating, it’s best to be patient and let the other person do most of the talking. When you do speak, try asking open-ended questions like, “What worries you about my proposal?” This helps you figure out what the other side wants.

Additionally, research shows that it’s hard for people to really listen in negotiations. When the other person talks, we often focus on what we’re going to say next instead of actually listening. Sometimes we think a clever response right after they speak is a good move, but it actually shows we weren’t listening at all.

Taking a moment of silence in a negotiation before you reply can help you stop thinking about your own response and listen better. It also lets you use active listening skills like repeating what they said, asking questions, and showing that you understand.

Active listening doesn’t come naturally in negotiations; we usually want to push our own ideas. But when you truly listen, and the other person feels heard, active listening becomes easier. Silence gives you the time you need to be a better listener.

Silence can also be a strong way to deal with unreasonable demands in a negotiation. When the other person asks for something outrageous, just staying quiet can be more effective than arguing. It makes them wonder if you hung up, especially in phone negotiations, and that can make them rethink their offer.

What is Effective Questioningand How Can You Ask These?

An effective question is one that allows you to get the information that you need while also encouraging meaningful conversation that can strengthen your relationship with the other party.

You might wonder, “How can I ask good questions when negotiating?” Well, the best way for you to get better at asking questions is to practice asking them more.

But, here’s something important to remember: think about what kind of questions you’re asking, how you say them, the order you ask them, and how you set them up.

Using open-ended questions is a smart way for you to ask questions effectively. These are questions that need more than just a yes or no answer. They’re really good when you want to find out a lot of information. There are a couple of important reasons why they work well.

First, they don’t put people on the spot with questions that have quick answers. So, they can help keep things calm.

Second, they make people want to say more. An open-ended question naturally makes people explain and give details instead of just saying one word.

Closed-ended questions are okay to use in some situations. There are moments in a conversation when you want a short and clear answer.

But usually, when you’re negotiating, using open-ended questions is the way to go. Especially at the start when both sides are trying to figure out what each other wants.

Here’s another tip: you can make your questions sound less like an interrogation by giving some background first.

Instead of saying, “Do you think this deadline is too tight?” you can say, “Usually, big projects like this need at least three months. Can you tell me how you plan to do it in two months?” This can make the other person feel more comfortable and willing to talk.


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9 Stepsto Effective Questioning and Listening

When it’s time to stay quiet and listen, you’ll need to fix your ears and understand what the other party is saying so you can catch information when needed. There are about 9 key steps on how to effectively listen and ask the right questions:

1. Listen through Body Movement

One can tell that you are interested in listening to what someone else has to say through body language. Sit quietly with your body facing the other party while doing so comfortably. Nod when asking questions that reaffirm or mirror what the other party said. Sit straight and look the other person in the eye. Do not ever slouch when the other party is trying to communicate with you.

2. Ask Short Questions

Short questions reveal short answers. And shorter answers help you ask more questions. While negotiations do take time, not beating around the bush also helps. With shorter questions, you can formulate more questions during the entire negotiation.

3. Ask Relevant Questions

Why ask questions that are not relevant to negotiations? When asking questions, ask those that are very important to the negotiations. Anything else should be ignored, unless you’re trying to break the ice.

4. Listen through Reaffirming the Statement / Question

Another sign that shows you were listening is through reaffirming what the other party just said. This is also called mirroring. You can use this when asking a question that needs clarification. 

5. Asking Open-Ended Questions

During negotiations, open-ended questions can be used for you to fish out more information. Doing so also helps in gauging the other party. For example, you can ask an open-ended question to gauge the mood of each member of the opposing party. Through this, you’ve already gained a lot of information.

6. Listen without distractions

Don’t talk with your teammate while someone from the other party is speaking. Not only is it considered rude and unprofessional, but you might miss important information by not listening intently. Also, find a place where there are no distractions. A family restaurant is simply not the environment you need for an important negotiation!

7. Listen in Complete Silence

The only way to listen properly is to be quiet. Silence is your friend when someone else is speaking to you or to everyone. Everyone has their turn to talk, so do be quiet, listen in for anything interesting, and allow the other party or another member of your team to finish what they’re talking about.

8. Ask as a habit

Effective communication skills always begin through habit. So, make it a habit to always ask questions before, during, and especially after negotiations. Information is key. Asking questions gives you more information. That makes sense, right?

9. Ask questions without interrupting

When someone is asking questions, please don’t interrupt. Let them ask the question directly and they’ll also do the same when it’s your team’s turn to ask questions.

Mistakes to AvoidWhen Asking Questions in Negotiations

You might be wondering how to ask good questions in negotiations. Well, it’s essential to think carefully about your questions instead of just asking the first thing that comes to mind.

Here are some mistakes to avoid when you’re asking questions in negotiations:

1. Repeating what’s already been answered

It can be frustrating for both parties if you ask a question that’s already been answered. Stay engaged in the conversation, particularly when you’re uncertain about a topic, to ensure your questions add value instead of causing irritation.

2. Going off-topic

In negotiation settings, it’s crucial to stay focused on the matter at hand. Avoid introducing unrelated issues that can divert attention from the main discussion. Instead, jot down these concerns and address them at a more appropriate time.

3. Opinions disguised as questions

Sometimes, we inadvertently insert our opinions into questions. For example, asking, “Don’t you think we should…” is more of a statement than a genuine question. It’s vital to be direct and ask real questions to obtain meaningful answers.

4. Asking ambiguous questions

To get clear and relevant responses, it’s essential to ask well-structured and unambiguous questions. Avoid bombarding the other party with a multitude of inquiries at once, as this can overwhelm everyone involved.

5. Talking to the wrong person

You must ensure that you’re directing your questions to the right person in the negotiation. Avoid approaching the most convenient individual and instead identify who possesses the most relevant information or authority to address your specific questions in the negotiation.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, effective questioning is a fundamental skill in negotiations, and it’s worth taking the time to refine this skill.

By avoiding common pitfalls such as repeating questions, straying off-topic, disguising opinions as questions, asking ambiguous questions, and addressing the wrong person, you can enhance your ability to navigate negotiations successfully. Also, this will allow you to build a more meaningful relationship with the other party.

Remember that well-crafted questions, presented thoughtfully and at the right time, can lead to valuable insights, have more productive discussions, and ultimately help you achieve your negotiation goals.

So, approach negotiations with a strategic and considerate approach to questioning, as it can make a significant difference in the outcomes you achieve.

Frequentlyasked questions

+ What is the first rule in negotiation?

In negotiation, the first rule is to find out as much information as you can so you know your playing field.

+ Why is it important to stay quiet and listen?

This is because it is much easier to gather information if you first listen to the other party.

+ Why is it important to ask questions?

It is important to ask questions without interrupting the other party as this is one of the best ways to gather their information and what they want in the negotiation.

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