Resolve Disagreements with “What’s” and “How’s”

Harrison said to his manager on Tuesday, “I need to take Thursday and Friday off.”

Harrison was in the midst of a complex analysis needed for a Monday presentation to key stakeholders.

A traditional manager might respond, “Harrison, you know I can’t approve your request at this time.  Why do you think you need to take two days off?”

The resulting conversation would likely evolve into excuses, explanations, disagreements, and frustration.  Both would have continued pushing hard; each trying to bend the other to his will.

A more effective approach is to look for options that work for both Harrison and the manager.  As author Chris Voss says in his book, NEVER SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE, ask “what” and “how” questions.

For example, “Harrison, you know about the stakeholder presentation.  What can you do to ensure that it is ready?”  Or, “How do you expect me to handle your part of the stakeholder presentation?”

Avoid “why” questions, as they beg for persuasive excuses and explanations.  “Why do you need two days off?”

“Because, I need to take care of ______.”  You can bet that Harrison would fill in this blank with jury-convincing reasons.

The intent is to seek options that allow Harrison to meet his needs, whatever they may be; while at the same time, ensuring a quality presentation for the stakeholders.


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