The unintended outcome of a negotiation can only be discovered through asking the unknowable question and preparing for an unknowable answer.

Intended outcomes that we plan for in a negotiation are good. But, we often struggle to attain them.

Unintended outcomes are the ones that we don’t plan for, have no idea that they can happen, and that shock us when they do happen. And, we struggle to explain them in hindsight, plan for the impact of them happening again, and then are surprised when something else happens to them that they didn’t plan for.

The way to mitigate the impact of unintended outcomes is to discover them through asking, and listening to the answers to, the unknowable questions.

The unknowable question doesn’t necessarily mean that the question isn’t known by both parties. It just means that the answer to the question is known by one party, but not the other.

And known just means “known but maybe not consciously known” by one party or the other.

Having the courage to ask the unknowable question, and then having the patience to listen to the answer is key to mitigating the impact of an unintended outcome.

If you’re uninterested, impatient, myopic, or just too lazy to formulate some questions that will have unknowable answers, well, the negotiations that you will engage in will not have the robustness of outcome that they deserve.

Jesan Sorrells

Jesan Sorrells

Jesan Sorrells is the CEO and Founder of Human Services Consulting and Training and leads on HSCT's flagship product, LeadingKeys. Contact him directly at