Calibrated Questions for Negotiating

by Jacqui Brauman

Calibrated Questions for Negotiating

by Jacqui Brauman

by Jacqui Brauman

Women often having an aversion to negotiating and having difficult conversations, and to being in conflict generally. But it’s something that we actually face in our day, more often than we think. And we need to get more comfortable with conflict and asking for what we want. 

To make us more comfortable, having some tools and strategies to be able to progress a difficult conversation is probably really handy for women to learn. A tool or skill in difficult communication is helpful because then you’ve got some way of structuring and approaching it.

So when you start a negotiation with someone, and it doesn’t matter how high or low stakes it is, some planning will set yourself up for the best change of achieving what you want. It could be:

  • negotiating over certain type of work that you’re doing 
  • a certain project and what’s going to be involved 
  • negotiating for your own pay rise 
  • negotiating to get your kids or your parents to do something that you want them to do, or 
  • it could be as important as negotiating over a financial split with your ex. 

You will experience more emotion, the higher the stakes of the conversation, and that’s also something that we talk about a lot in Legally Wise Women. We need to make sure our brain is functioning, so we are not making decisions in a stress response state. We want to be able to make really rational decisions, and being thoughtful about what outcome we actually want. We also don’t want to be handing off the responsibility of that decision to someone else, just because we’re emotional.

Try to approach the negotiation in stages …

The first stage

The first thing you want to do is make sure the other person feels heard. Now, as much as this may be difficult for you to hear what they want to say, and hold back on what you’re feeling or what you want to say, you’ve got to make sure that they feel like they’re being heard.

Next stage

The next phase is once they feel heard, and you have figured out where they’re coming from, you can use that to your advantage to get what you need as well. 

This is where using some calibration questions will help. Calibrated questions are a ‘What’ or a’How’ question. 

‘What’ questions make someone feel like they’re more in control of the process. It brings them in to be more engaged and to be problem solving with you.

Some simple examples might be, “What do you think has got us to this point? What do you think is going to help resolve it? What do you think I should be doing? What do you think we need to do to move this forward?” And “What’s your advice on making this happen?” 

A ‘What’ question puts decision making back to them, making them feel like they’re in control and it helps them to buy into whatever solution you end up coming up with. Once you get really good at this, you can also phrase your ‘What’ questions in the direction you want them to think!

‘How’ questions are really an interesting way of you saying ‘No’. So if a suggestion comes up that you don’t like, use a ‘How’ question. 

Some simple examples are, “How do you expect that to work? How do you think that I can raise that money? How do you think that this should be executed? How do we go about making this happen? How do you think that I can achieve that? How will a third party buy into this? How is such and such going to respond to what we’re proposing?”

Make sure they’re heard. Make sure they feel like they’re in control. Learn to say no in a way that’s not confronting and to keep the talking happening. These steps will have you much better set to get to creative solutions with less emotion and more buy-in from the other party.


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