In general, asking "why" is more important than asking "what," the expert said: "People talk about 'what' all the time — what they want: 'We want the deal done in six months. We want more money up front. We want exclusivity. We don't want exclusivity.'"
The key, said Malhotra, is to "figure out why they want these things. What are the things that are driving them? What's the underlying motivation?"
More from iCONIC:
Arianna Huffington shares the No. 1 thing you need to do to be successful
How a fitness CEO used being fired twice as fuel for her future success
Shark Tank star Daymond John: This is how Macy's can compete with Amazon
"Often, the two sides have seemingly incompatible positions," he continued. For example, one side might want exclusivity, while the other doesn't want to give exclusivity. "Those seem incompatible. ... But sometimes, when you start digging a little bit underneath the surface [and] when you go from 'what' to 'why,' often you find that seemingly incompatible positions are hiding underlying interests that are actually reconcilable."
The next time you find yourself in the middle of a negotiation, "get into the habit of asking more questions," said Malhotra. "Get into the habit of asking 'why' and figuring out what is actually driving their demands."