Negotiation and Problem Solving Made Easy


Negotiation is the process of getting into Agreement. Problem-Solving requires what’s commonly called Lateral Thinking. Here are THE two secrets that will make both processes easy and smooth, and that will bring results every time!

It has to do with our ability to think at different logical levels. It’s very simple, and it goes like this:

Let’s imagine that I want to buy a computer (by the way, I’m thinking of buying an iMac, so, it’s a real life example). And let’s imagine that I am asking you for advice about my options.

If you know anything about computers, it is likely that you are going to go into details, look at the different parts and explain about CPUs, types of RAM, and hard disk sizes. And if I ask about the types of RAM, you could go into more details still, and advise me to buy a DDG3 RAM because that will boost the processing speed.

If your tech knowledge is more limited, you may prefer to explain about different categories, whether I should purchase a MAC, or a PC, and if I choose a PC, shall I go for Windows Vista (nooooooooo!!!!!) or wait for Windows 2007 to come out.

In both cases, you’d go into more details about computers. This what we call CHUNKING DOWN. Computer>MAC or PC>Windows Vista or Windows 2007 etc…

The question you want to ask to chunk down is “what (or how) specifically?”, or “what’s another example of this?

Now, let’s imagine that I am not even sure whether I want to buy a computer, and I ask you whether I should buy one or not. Then, you would probably ask me what is the reason why I am thinking about buying one, for what purpose. I may tell you, “well, because I want to keep in contact with my friends”, but that would not necessarily give you enough information to provide an answer, so you may ask “keep in contact with your friends, yes, and for what purpose?”, and I may tell you “well, to communicate with a large number of people” and so on.

In this case, what you’d be doing is trying to get my higher intention, what is the big picture reason behind my thinking about buying a computer. Once you know the higher purpose, you can advise whether a computer is the best choice for me.

This process is called CHUNKING UP, which means going toward the bigger picture.

So starting from computer, if we chunk down and go into more details, we get to parts (CPU, RAM, hard disk) or categories (PC or MAC) and if we chunk up, we go toward the larger picture (computer>networking>communication) You’ll notice that if we chunk up high enough, we always end up at “existence” or “universe” because in order to communicate, we have to exist right?

The question you want to ask to chunk up is “for what purpose, what’s the intention?“, “what’s this an example of?

Now, I know you are thinking what does this have to do with the negotiation table? well… EVERYTHING!

Negotiation is the process of getting into Agreement, we said that at the beginning. Well, you know what? if you chunk high enough, it is IMPOSSIBLE not to get into agreement. Differences of opinion only exist at chunking levels where there are enough details to disagree upon. So what you’d do is to chunk up in the discussions, to a level where both parties would have to agree, then chunk back down (go into more details) only as quickly as everyone could keep a background focus on the higher intention.

I’ll give you an example of that. A few years back, I worked with 2 business partners who could not agree on anything! They had opposite opinions on where the business was heading, on business planning, they even did not agree on the colour of the room and the furniture! They decided to seek assistance, because they could see that the business was suffering. So we all sat down, and I asked both of them “what are you in business for, what’s your higher purpose?” Eventually they both got to “making a profit”. So from there, we chunked down while keeping the agreement. And what happened was magic! Once they had realised that they both had the same higher intention, they were much more willing to give up control over the smaller details. Both of them had gone into business together in the first place because they had very complementary skills, and through the process, they naturally allowed the other person to take decisions on whatever was their area of expertise.

You can see from here that this is not only useful in business, but in family mediation, relationships, and all areas where two parties want to reach an agrement.

A word of caution here: for an agreement to happen, there has to be a will to agree in the first place. Some negotiations are doomed from the start because one or both parties have already decided to get out anyway.

OK, so what does this have to do with problem solving? Well… EVERYTHING! 😉


Someone’s ability to problem-solve is proportional to his or her lateral thinking skills. How do you think laterally? Very simple. By chunking up first (asking yourself “what’s this an example of”), then chunking down (what is another example of that?”)

So for example, in our computer story, to chunk laterally from  “computer”, you’d ask yourself “what’s computer an example of?”, and you’d get to say, communication, then “what is another example of communication?”, and you could say “mobile phone”, but also “books” or “musical score” (which are other forms of communication). Then, you can become really creative, and connect things which are seemingly remote from each other. This is when you problem solving ability increases ten-fold!

Want to know more? Watch the video in the next post. There, I give other examples of why and when the chunking process can be useful. I also touch on one of the most powerful form of chunking up that’s used by politicians, public speakers and generally anyone in the business of convincing all over the world, and which is called “nominalisations”.

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Categories : How To, NLP

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