Innovation comes from questioning the status quo. Thomas Edison did not invent the lightbulb by saying, “I love the sooty feeling this room gets from oil lamps.” Nor did Japanese musician Daisuke Inoue invent the karaoke machine by saying, “You guys just sing along with the radio.” And the ultimate quote on the value of questioning comes from Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, who said, “We run this company on questions, not answers.” Without your questions, Google would not exist.
Questions are more important
So, if questions are so important, why don’t we ask more of them, especially in our negotiations where the stakes are so high?
- You think you know the answers. After all, EVERYONE wants to pay less, why should you be any different? Assuming you know the answers can leave out important ideas that drive innovation.
- You don’t want to look stupid. This continues to exist, despite evidence that great leaders constantly ask questions like, “how can we look at this differently?”
- You don’t want to slow down the process. Questions lead to answers, which might make you think about your negotiation in a different way. You may have to rethink your plan, but it will be a better plan with the right information.
3 ways to stop hogging the mic
Sometimes you want to yell at that guy hogging the microphone at your favorite karaoke bar, “Share the mic!” Everyone falls into the trap of talking too much and asking too few questions because your brain tells you that when you’re talking, you’re in control. You have the power. The crowd is watching you as long as you’re singing. Here are three things you can do to change this habit:
- Ask questions and listen to answers with genuine curiosity. Stop formulating your response while the other person is answering your question. Just listen.
TRY THIS: imagine that you are a friend of this person and your only goal is to understand more about what’s going on. Ask 3 follow-up questions.
- Stop jumping to a solution. Don’t try to fix things. Just listen and show empathy. Your goal is to understand before you suggest solutions.
TRY THIS: Tell the other party that you need to think about their situation and promise to get back to them with additional questions and ideas. Wait one day before you get back to them, then ask one more question before you offer solutions.
- Be sure that you got the whole picture. In our rush to get through tense conversations, we shortcut our listening so we can move on to the next important thing on our to do list.
TRY THIS: Summarize what you heard. Don’t add your opinion or judgement.
The bottom line
You can’t change the status quo by doing the same old thing. The first step to innovation comes from asking more and better questions, then listening to the answers. High-performing negotiators understand that managing the flow of information more strategically will get more creative, sustainable results in your negotiations and in your relationships. So stop hogging the mic on karaoke night, give someone else a chance to sing.
Does your team have a different negotiation challenge? Look here for resources to improve your results and contact RED BEAR Negotiation Company.