Have you ever tried to keep a two-year-old happy? Most days you can do it with a few toys and maybe a silly song or two, but then there are days when nothing works. In desperation, you ask the child, “What do you want?”
And the kid says, “I dunno.”
I dunno is the hardest issue to deal with in negotiations. If you’re talking with someone who doesn’t know what they want, you have no basis for negotiating. You don’t have closure, you don’t have anything meaningful to talk about. All you have is a whining two-year-old.
In everyday negotiating, people who don’t know what they want are simply not ready to negotiate. You shouldn’t be in that position yourself—because you’ve done your homework, right? But even the best prepared negotiating team is going to occasionally find itself in a situation where it’s dealing with issues it hadn’t considered before the session began.
Once again, the team approach becomes important here—the negotiator gives way to the intelligence officer, who gathers more information and presents it to the commander. On a one-man team, you drop into explore mode and gather intelligence, asking questions—just remember that’s what you’re doing, getting intelligence, not negotiating.