How To Get The Other Side To Tell You What You Need To Know

by drjim on April 21, 2017

The other side knows what you need to know, now how to get them to tell it to you

The other side knows what you need to know, now how to get them to tell it to you
Image Credit: Matus Laslofi

I’m all about doing my homework before I start a negotiation. I’ll have a talk with Google, call up people that the other side of the table have negotiated with in the past, and I’ll study the issues that we’ll be discussing. However, no matter how good of a job that I do in preparing for a negotiation, I fully realize that when the negotiations start, I won’t know everything that I need to know no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques I plan on using.. What this means is that I’m going to have to find some way to get the additional information that I need out of the other side during the negotiation. Exactly how to go about doing this is an art into itself…

Getting Started Getting Information

Information is the key to any successful negotiation. What you need to realize at the start of a negotiation is that you don’t know everything that you need to know. What this means is that as the negotiation starts, you’ve got a job to do. You are going to have to discover ways to get the other side to open up and tell you the things that you need to know. Of course you are going to have to do this in a way that does not reveal to the other side what you are trying to do.

One of the first things that you are going to have to do is to remind yourself that you need to listen to the other side more and talk less. I can only speak for myself, but this can be quite hard to do. You need to understand that everything the other side says comes along with a lot of other things: values, experience, emotions, and expectations. Your goal has to be to uncover the other side’s real objectives for this negotiation. Make sure that you engage in active listening where you lean forward, make eye contact, and smile when it’s appropriate.

The way that you draw information out of the other side is by asking them questions. However, the types of questions that you start out asking will be key. You don’t want to ask questions that can be answered with a “yes” or a “no”. Instead, you want to ask open-ended questions that are going to cause the other side to stop and think about what they want the answer to be. The purpose of these probing questions is to do two things: reduce the other side’s defensiveness and to gather critical information from them.

Getting The Other Side To Open Up

One of the things that it can be all too easy to overlook in the high pressure world of negotiations is that both sides of the table do have feelings. If you want to get information out of the other side, then you are going to have to take some time ad reflect what they are feeling. What this means is that you are going to have to try to take a look at the current situation through the eyes of the other side. What you want to be able to do is to let them know that you identify with the situation that they now find themselves in.

Before you can resolve the disagreements between the two sides, you are first going to have to make sure that you fully understand what their issues with you are. The best way to go about doing this is to first, take notes so that you can remember what their issues are, and then read your notes back to them. What you want to do here is to get agreement from the other side that your understanding of what has to be solved is the same as their understanding of what you are both going to have to be working on.

The best way to get information from the other side is to let them know that they’ve done something good when they share information with you. What this means is that when they share something with you, you need to express your appreciation for them doing it. This can be as simple as a smile, a nod, or a wink. If they do something that you don’t want them to do, then ignore it. Praise the things that they do that you do want them to do. By encouraging the behavior that you want them to exhibit and discouraging the behavior that you don’t want them to exhibit you’ll gently nudge them towards revealing more to you.

What All Of This Means For You

Hopefully we all understand that it is necessary to prepare for our next principled negotiation. However, what many of us don’t fully understand is that preparing can only be partially done before the negotiations start. No matter how hard we try, there will always be things that only the other side of the table can answer for us. In order to complete our understanding of what we need to know in order to be successful, we’re going to have to get the other side to share information with us.

There are a number of different ways to go about doing this. Perhaps the simplest is to take the time to really listen to what the other side is saying. How they are saying will convey a great deal of information about how they are feeling and what is important to them. Questions are a great way to get the other side to tell you what they are thinking. Just make sure that you ask the right types of questions. Understanding that the other side has feelings and respecting them will go a long way in getting them to open up to you. There will be disagreements between both sides, but you need to make sure that you fully understand them before you start discussions on how to resolve them.

Understanding that the way that we’re going to be able to get the deal that we want out of our next negotiation is by mastering the art of collecting the information that we need from the other side is important. Take the time to understand how you can get the other side to open up to you and you’ll be able to get all of the information that you need. With this information, you’ll get the deal that you want.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: How much time during a negotiation should you spend trying to get information from the other side?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Who gets what out of a negotiation is often determined not by what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used but rather by who has the most power. This is actually sort of an amusing thing because of the very nature of power – we can’t see it, we don’t know who has it and who does not, and it can flow from one person to another very quickly. What all of this means for us as negotiators is that we need to take the time to understand how power works in a negotiation and, more importantly, how we can make it work for us.

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