What the HECK are they thinking? Negotiating their side of the table

Published on by Lisa Gates.

One of the most common questions litigators ask is this:

What the heck is the other side thinking?  I mean, are they stupid or just lazy?  I don't get it. Why are they even defending the case?  or bringing it?  They'll never win.

It turns out, of course, that the other side is thinking something and the thing that they're thinking is impossible for us to know without asking them what the heck are you thinking?  This is not something litigators do well.  But it is something that women do splendidly and quite naturally.

Asking diagnostic or "strategic" questions is one of the best ways to commence any negotiation session, whether you're asking for a raise, raising your fee or seeking a discount.  How you ask these questions will, of course, determine the quality of the answers you get.  What kind of questions are we talking about?  Take a look at July workshop member Selena Rezvani's post at NextGenWomen, Ladies, Don't Forget to Negotiate.


While you are negotiating, use the technique of asking questions, preferably open-ended questions, which can be very powerful. These questions open up dialogue and can even buy you more time if you need to gather your thoughts. These questions, some examples of which are shown below, help guide and move the conversation along.

 • Can you explain how you arrived at that solution?

• How are decisions like these determined?

• Are you willing to negotiate that point?

• What is keeping us from coming to an agreement?

• How could I help you feel more comfortable with this request?

• What is most important to you? Can you explain why?

• How can we move forward?

• How can we best . . . ?

• How can we make this work for both of us?

• Is that the best you can do?

• What is the cost of us not coming to an agreement?

(read the full post here)

These are all dynamite questions to ask when attempting to learn your bargaining partners' interests -- their goals, desires, needs, fears, preferences, priorities, competing opportunities, possible alternative negotiation partners, restrictions on their authority to make a deal, and the like. 

How we ask these questions is as important as the questions themselves.  Negotiation gurus Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever of Women Don't Ask and Ask for It! suggest that we women be "relentlessly pleasant."  Pleasant and firm.  Pleasant and strong.  Pleasant and professional.  Pleasant and prepared.  Pleasant and knowledgeable.  A negotiation can be conducted on the most competitive and aggressive terms in the most pleasant fashion.  

"I'd really like to see you get the best deal possible for my services.  Let's talk about the ways in which I can be most helpful to you and then we can talk about price."

"Gee, I'm sorry you don't have the ability to pay my fee up front.  What would make it easier for you?  I have permitted people to pay over time under certain circumstances, but I've also had bad experiences when I've done so.  What were you considering?  Have you thought about how you might guarantee that my full fee will be paid even after I've completed the job?"

"I'd love to work with you but your price just doesn't fall within my budget right now.  Do you have any ideas about fitting your services into my limitations?"

We don't lack for pleasant.  What we lack is firm.  If we are clear and firm about our own bottom line, putting ourselves on their side of the table with the negotiation "problem" in front (instead of between) us, we  become partners in the bargaining enterprise while at the same time maximizing opportunities available to us both.  And best of all, we'll get a great deal without feeling as if we're "negotiating" at all.


Early bird specials for the She Negotiates workshop beginning on July 19 expires today.  But it never hurts to negotiate!


Events Selena Revzani, ShShe Negotiates, Victoria Pynchon, Women Don't Ask

Published on by Lisa Gates.