Many books have been written about negotiation strategy and the different approaches to negotiation, from interest-based to traditional bargaining to win-win to principled, and many more. Much less, however, has been written about the detailed mechanics of successful negotiation and problem solving, about the face-to-face tools and language skills we must master to be more effective negotiators. In particular, one of the most important skills is the “art of the question” — the ability to ask effective, powerful questions and to combine that ability with strong empathy and listening. These are the skills that deliver better outcomes and win-win solutions.
This is why we wrote BrainFishing: A Practice Guide to Questioning Skills. This new book delivers clear, useful skills in a practical format. It is both a “how to” book for making questioning skills your forte, and an informative guide to understanding the neuroscience behind why the use of questions is far more effective than arguing, telling, or debating. It identifies many different types of questions and when to use them; it highlights the effective use of acknowledging and empathy statements; and it even offers a few “magic words” – words that facilitate effective engagement. It’s also a fun, fast-paced, and at times irreverent look at the skills we can all use to be successful in times of constant change, whether it be at the negotiating table, during a workplace interaction or in a social situation.
In the book, we equate “telling” with “hunting”, which is done by targeting other people by demanding and pushing them to see your point of view. We then equate questioning skills and “asking” with “fishing”, which is done by attracting and engaging the creative, powerful, problem solving parts of our brain.
In this excerpt from BrainFishing, we demonstrate why telling, in most cases, is a failed communication strategy, and why our brains nonetheless get trapped into telling, arguing and debating. We then offer some ways to start dramatically improving each and every interaction we have with other people.