The Power of Questions


You have probably used it your entire life. In fact, I know you have because from the moment we can speak as a child, we master this gift. It is the finest weapon in our arsenal. It has the power, if used correctly, to give you everything you have dreamed of. It is called The Question.

If you are reading this and you have children, or have ever been around one, you know what I am talking about. They are the Masters of It. As a child, you are going through the fastest learning curve in your life, learning from every impression you get. Is this a coincidence? Maybe not, because children have figured out how to learn, simply by asking questions.

To improve as a negotiator, or as a human being we need to become more childish in that we need to ask more questions, in fact there are 2 main ways we should use the term "Question" as a negotiator.

  • We need to Ask Questions

Negotiation is an information gathering process, we gather information from our counterparts by asking the right questions.

  • We need to Question

Information is crucial for our decision-making process, but we need to question the information that we are gathering and make sure it's as accurate as it can be. We need also to questions behaviors, circumstances, and motives.

The real power behind a question lies in its physical nature, and what it does to our brains. We have a brain activity which is called Instinctive elaboration, which take over our thought process. If you hear a question such as "What color is the sky?" Your thought process goes automatically to the color of the sky.

What this means is that serotonin is released to your brain and makes it relax and letting the questions sink in. Then comes the Dopamine who takes one of two ways, either our reward system is activated, or our fear and survival mode kicks in. What this means to a person who receives a question is that their brain activity forces them to craft a solution of damage control, so they can give a response which is acceptable.

What most of us tend to do when we hear an answer to a question is to immediately start looking for flaws in our counterparts reasoning, and we start to formulate our response to them, to justify our position, to argue and to "beat the other side" which only leads to a negative spiral. We hear them but we do not listen. More interesting is, and crucial if you want to be a better negotiator is your ability to answer back with a question, always mirroring what the other side is saying. Do not forget that Negotiation is an information gathering process. Mirror with questions such as

"How do you feel about that?"

"What do you suggest?"

"How would that affect you?"

"What do you think about that?"

Just imagine the power these simple questions can have on your negotiations. By using them, not only are you able to show Empathy and understanding for your counterpart, you are also able to gather more information, which can be used to your advantage. On top of that, you are taking away the opportunity for your counterpart to provide justification.

Try these out in your next negotiation (or whenever you receive a question) and do not forget to Bring It Home!