What You'll Learn
  • The Negotiator's Probe is an open-ended question that gets the other side to reveal information, move, explore options and generate creativity
  • Probing shows concern for the other side's interests
  • Probing is effective when it isolates areas of concern
  • Probing builds rapport and strengthens trust
  • An effective tool to use during the Exchange Stage – and throughout Bargaining – is called the "Probe."
  • The Negotiator's Probe is an open-ended question that gets the other side to reveal information, move, explore options and generate creativity.
  • Probes should be carefully constructed, succinct and on-point.
  • Probing questions include the "who, what, when, why, where and how" questions.
  • Probing shows concern for the other side's interests, and has the beneficial side effect of building trust.
  • You know a Probe is effective when it isolates real areas of concern.
  • When Probing you must be an active listener. Listening carefully to the answers given after a Probe can reveal hidden fears and objections. It is important to be aware of these early in the process.
  • Probing builds rapport and strengthens trust.

To ensure you are more collaborative and less confrontational with your questioning, see yourself using probing to:

  • Challenge yourself to look at solutions from a different point of view
  • Stay in the state of curiosity longer to sort out where others are coming from
  • Probe deeper into motivations, perspectives, real interests, experiences
  • Bring the unspeakable question to the surface
  • Challenge the status quo to move the conversation to the next level
  • Create mutually beneficial options
  • Build on what is being said and take it one or two steps further
  • Engage with people at a deeper level

Probing takes place predominately in the Exchange Stage and in the Bargaining Stage. This chart shows the different uses of the Negotiator's Probe in these stages:

Probing in Information Exchange Probing in Bargaining
Uncovers hidden fears and objections so you can tackle them before emotions erupt

Logic makes you think – emotions make you act; We decide based on emotions and logically defend a decision later

Opens up opportunities for creative concessions
Allows you to assess likeability, competency, and trustworthiness of the other side Informs your concession pattern
Demonstrates authenticity – shows that you
  • Are sincerely interested in understanding the other side’s needs and satisfying them
  • Are fully engaged and willing to put in the effort to reach agreement
  • Have done your homework and are not to be fooled
Can be in the form of a Crunch – response to an offer that does not counter the offer, but still gets other side to move off the current position and make a concession
Discovers the other side’s interests Confirms or denies assumptions
Answers your “Don’t Knows,” including who from their side has authority to commit or approve Aligns goals
Tests your assumptions and allows you to correct theirs Creates opportunities for trades that get you closer to your MDO
Makes clear whether interests and goals are aligned Creates value (solutions address interests)
Informs any adjustments to your Most Desired Outcome, Goal and Least Acceptable Alternative  
Discover value (options become apparent)