Negotiation Tactic #62 – Help Me Understand

Summary: Asking questions to clarify a counterpart’s position on issues.

Some authors on negotiation encourage readers to ask only questions to which they already know the answers. Although we agree that you may not want to ask questions in some situations, we support asking questions when you don’t understand your counterpart’s position. Asking for clarification or more information from your counterpart can be very helpful in creating a win-win outcome.


An organization sends out a memo informing customers that checks will no longer be accepted for payment to accounts. All future payments must be made by debit card. One customer, using the Help Me Understand tactic, calls the organization to ask why the policy is being implemented. The accounts receivable manager informs the customer that by eliminating the “float” period while checks are in the mail, the organization hopes to minimize the money it needs to borrow to maintain adequate cash flow, thereby saving over $50,000 annually.


This clarification allows the customer to come up with an option, using the If…Then tactic. The customer asks the accounts receivable manager, “If I mail my payment five days before the due date, then will you accept my check?” Since the outcome for the organization would be the same as debit transaction on the due date, the accounts receivable manager agrees to accept the customer’s check.

Have you used or encountered this tactic in your negotiations? If so, how’d it go?

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