George Herbert once said, “Many things are lost for want of asking.” In actuality, this statement provides some invaluable insight into negotiation, and succeeding as a negotiator.
Let’s begin by breaking this quote down. First, let’s take a look at the “want of asking.” What is this actually referring to, and how does it apply during the process of negotiation? Whenever we talk about the “want of asking,” whether or not we’re referring to negotiation, we’re referring to the necessity of voicing one’s needs or desires — even if the individual decides against voicing them. If we encounter the want of asking, directly addressing or asking for something is a necessary step, if we’re looking to see the situation progress any further. If this desire is never put into words, then the situation will remain at a standstill. This isn’t the route to productive discussion — or negotiation for that matter.
Sometimes, if we encounter this want of asking, the individual in question will decide against voicing their needs. As soon as this occurs, their objective will no longer be within reach. Whatever that objective was, it’s now been lost — all because the individual failed to comply with the want of asking, for whatever reason.
The Importance of “Asking” During Negotiations
In the context of negotiations, keep in mind that “asking” doesn’t always need to be taken literally. You don’t necessarily need to be asking a direct question — rather, you could simply be voicing your own needs, or compromising in a way that accounts for how you could benefit, in the end. To succeed during negotiations, you’ll need to voice arguments or statements which could lead you closer to your objective.
On that note, why might a negotiator decide against “asking” during their discussion? This depends on the individual and the situation, but generally, a level of fear or uncertainty will be involved in the situation. If the person isn’t confident that what they’re saying will benefit the discussion, then they might hesitate to make their thoughts known. Maybe they didn’t adequately prepare for the round of negotiations — or, alternatively, these nerves could simply be due to a lack of experience. Without substantial experience as a negotiator, individuals are more prone to letting nerves or fear dictate their approach to the conversation.
Whatever the case may be, as soon as that individual fails to express their thoughts, they’re complicating the process of compromise. If your needs aren’t known or understood by your counterpart, then it’s unlikely that they will be fully addressed, in whatever agreement you come to. Rather, your desires and goals should be on the table, available to your negotiations partner. This doesn’t mean they will all be achieved, exactly as you would have hoped — instead, making your thoughts known can allow for a fair compromise.
Why Asking Is Vital to Communication During Negotiations
Without a doubt, communication is one of the most valuable foundations of any successful bout of negotiation. If any of the parties are unable to communicate clearly and without misunderstandings, then it’s unlikely that a fair agreement can be reached.
If you fail to make requests or vocalize your wants during negotiations, you are making effective communication impossible. Throughout the negotiating process, you should keep your objectives and goals in mind. As you guide the conversation, you should be attempting to steer it in the direction of those goals, while also respecting and accounting for the goals and needs of your counterpart.
In that sense, you’ll require a well-rounded understanding of the situation at hand, where the goals of both you and your counterpart are known by all parties — even if they’re not spoken outright. If you’re deliberately hiding these objectives out of fear or discomfort, you’re only setting yourself up for failure in the end.
At the end of any successful negotiation is compromise. Compromise ensures that all parties get something valuable out of the agreement, based upon their own goals. However, true compromise can’t occur when your counterpart is unaware of what you want. To reach a fair compromise, your own goals and interests will need to be accounted for.
When you fail to utilize the “want of asking,” you’re not going to reach your goals, as a negotiator. Instead, you’ll lose whatever it is you were hoping to get out of the discussion — just as Herbert suggested. To avoid losing a beneficial outcome, it’s critical that you don’t beat around the bush, especially if this ambiguity is the result of nervousness or inexperience. Don’t be afraid to direct the discussion in a particular direction, as long as you’re continuing to address the needs of your counterpart. Without asking, you aren’t going to receive what you desire, come time to compromise.