“Setup questions can be to a person what a snake charmer is to a snake, mesmerizing. Watch the person that uses setup questions to mesmerize you!” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert
“I can’t believe he asked me when I stopped beating my wife. I’ve never beaten my wife; I love her too much to do that! Those were the dejected words spoken by a man that was in the throes of a messy divorce proceeding to the question posed by the lawyer of his soon to be ex-wife.
Are you aware of how and why setup questions are designed to motivate you to a particular thought or action? In negotiations, you should be on the alert for setup questions.
A setup question (e.g. Most people would be horrified if that happened to them, right?) is used to position someone’s response as measured against what is viewed as being normal by others; it can also be used to alter the thought process of an individual.
The challenge to the responder is, if he answers contrary to the norm, he appears to be outside of that norm. That makes him appear to be abnormal. That’s a position that most people attempt to avoid, especially when such is exposed to others. The perception of abnormality can position someone as, he’s not like the rest of us, which can place that person in a squeamish position. It’s another way to apply a sense of unseen but felt leverage upon him.
When this tactic is used to alter someone’s thought process, it can be even more devastating, due to the attack on that person’s mental psyche. Thus, it can also be used to take someone off the offense and put them on the defense.
This tactic becomes more burdensome to the recipient of this ploy when used by someone that’s an aggressive or bully type of negotiator. The reason being, when confronted by an aggressive negotiator, more than likely, you’re already experiencing a heightened sense of anxiety. That may be in the form of just being more aware of your negotiation environment. The point is, you’re not relaxed, you’re on edge. That will prohibit your normal thought process from occurring which could lead to making errant decisions.
To recount, in all of your negotiations, be aware that setup questions may be posed at different times and for multiple purposes. They can be used:
For the purpose of altering your mental state. Once your mental state is altered, you may be more susceptible to falling into a defense that simply keeps you off the offense.
For positioning purposes, a setup question may be used to have you viewed in an unflattering manner, so as to marginalize the perception that others have of you and to disallow them from having empathy to your point or position.
To alter one’s mind, such questions may also be used in an attempt to make you forget, defuse, or confuse the point you were attempting to make.
The more alert you are to the possibility of setup questions being used in your negotiations, and how they might be used, the better prepared you’ll be at defending yourself against them. Doing so will give you an advantage in the negotiation … and everything will be right with the world.
Remember, you’re always negotiating!
After reading this article, what are you thinking? I’d really like to know. Reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com
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