Anyone who’s been around young children knows the question. You can count on them to ask it in almost every situation. Answer it and they will ask it again about the answer. It’s how they learn.

As adults, we don’t ask the question enough. And that’s particularly true in business settings.

For example, you might be negotiating a contract and the other side wants to include a term that you find objectionable. You strike the term from the draft only to have them put it back in. This can lead to a great deal of angst and, in some cases, acrimony.

Before you succumb to those emotions, ask the question. Why do they want that term? Imagine yourself in their position and try to figure out the answer. If you can’t figure it out, ask them directly. At the same time, ask yourself why you want the term deleted.

By asking why, you’ll learn what is motivating the other side to take their position (and what is motivating you to take yours), and that is essential to determining whether a sticking point can be resolved through negotiation.

Once you know why someone wants something, you may be able to come up with creative solutions to bridge your differences. Sometimes, however, you’ll discover that what once appeared to be a deal that you could soon close is, in reality, a deal that will never be; their objectives may be irreconcilable with yours. Either way, you’ll shorten the time you spend negotiating.