Our lives--both in and out of the office--are one great, big negotiation. We negotiate with our boss for a promotion or raise, we negotiate with our coworkers for their support and help on an important project, and we negotiate assignments and deadlines with the people we lead. And, of course, we negotiate with suppliers and other businesses all the time. Some of those negotiations go smoothly, while others get stuck.

As Deepak Malhotra, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, and author of the book, Negotiating the Impossible, explains, stalled negotiations are expensive--they waste energy, wreck relationships and damage a business's bottom line. Dealmakers need effective tools to cut through the cutthroat business tactics and political posturing that traditional negotiations typically foster.

By using Deepak Malhotra's 5 counterintuitive power tools, negotiators can ditch the adversarial disadvantage to create solutions that benefit everyone.

1. Negotiate process first

After negotiating for months--just when you think the deal is done--the other side says it needs another six months, or approval from the boss. You can avoid such frustrations by negotiating process before substance. Before getting deep into the deal, get clarity and commitment on how you will get to the finish line. How long does it take their organization to do a deal like this? Who needs to be on board? How will progress be tracked? Negotiating process at the outset helps you avoid substance mistakes later.

2. Shift from "what?" to "why?"

The right questions can help avert deadlock. A simple rule of thumb: Asking why is more important than asking what. Asking "what" focuses on their positions (e.g., we need exclusivity). Asking "why" helps you understand their underlying interests (e.g., I am worried about Competitor X having access to your technology). Positions are sometimes incompatible, even when interests are reconcilable. For example, you might not be able to grant exclusivity, but you could carve out an exception for Competitor X.

3. Normalize the process

Effective mediators, especially in potentially emotional disputes, often start by telling clients something like this: "You think you hate each other today? Well, halfway through this process you will probably hate each other even more. When that happens, I just want you to remember: that's normal." Saying this makes it less likely they will quit when emotions run high. Great negotiators also "normalize the process." When you forewarn the other side about common delays and disruptions, it keeps people from assuming the worst when inevitable problems emerge.

4. Make multiple offers

Sometimes people reject proposals because their hands are truly tied. The sooner you can figure out where flexibility exists, the more likely you can structure a deal that works for both sides. Offering multiple proposals or solutions not only signals flexibility, it makes it less likely that their legitimate constraints will create an impasse. Remember: The more currencies you allow someone to pay you in, the more likely you are to get paid.

5. Ignore ultimatums

When the other side issues ultimatums, the best response is usually the simplest: Ignore them. Don't ask people to repeat or clarify ultimatums, and don't get into lengthy discussions about them. Why? Many ultimatums are not true deal-breakers. Sometimes people are just emotional, or trying to assert control or gain advantage. Later, they might realize it is actually in their best interest to do what they said they never would. If you've ignored the ultimatum, it will be easier for them to back down without losing face.