Most students of the negotiation process agree that the best negotiators will perform a thorough process of discovery prior to sitting down with the other party.

The process of discovery itself requires resolving some internal concerns, such as:

1. How much do I really need to know? (In the next article we’ll discuss some of the characteristics of the other party it would be helpful to know.)

2. What is going to be the best approach to discovering each of these points of information?

3. When does it become too much to ask?

4. When should discovery start?

5. Who, in our organization should be assigned each of the points to discover?

6. How will we verify the information we do discover?

7. Who in the other party’s organization will we use as a source?

8. How can we deal with our people’s philosophy toward discovery?

Now, hold a mirror up to the above list and prepare your organization for the other party’s discovery process:

1. What is safe and / or appropriate to share with the other party? Some of these issues must be made available to create the best agreement possible for both parties.

2. What is the best way to disclose?

3. Who is the most appropriate person to disclose vital information?

4. How do we train our vulnerable people to not disclose information we do not want disclosed?

I will never advocate lying, but it is imperative your folks have permission to not answer a question! Here are some ideas on how not to answer a question and still maintain our integrity:

• “Wow, great question, but that answer can only come from Penny in Engineering.”

• “Why is that important to you?”

• “I am not authorized to answer that question.”

• “You know, we used to provide that type of information to trusted folks, like yourselves, but then we realized that our friends changed jobs, and their replacement never seemed to have the same level of confidentiality as the first person. Pretty soon our propriety information became street knowledge. Now, after being burned a few too many times, no one in our organization is authorized to disclose this type of information.”

Some relevant quotes for you:

Remember, a loose woodpecker inside of the ship may be a greater danger than all the storms on the outside.

“I have never been hurt by what I didn’t disclose, but I have oft regretted what I did say.”

“It is better to remain silence and be thought of as a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

“Silence creates confidence in your position.”

“Wise folks speak when they have something to say and fools talk when they have to say something.”

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