Negotiating Is Created In Their Thinking

We talk so much and it is all about us. We actually have an acronym for it – WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).

WIIFM needs to evolve to WIIFO. (What’s In It For Others)

* WIIFO involves getting to know “why” someone states something. It involves getting behind the statement to learn their deeper motivation.

* We are not successful negotiating against statements. Rather we negotiate successfully when we look for creative ways to meet their stated, or unstated, needs.

Elevator Story  

Several years ago, a very nice hotel in downtown Richmond, VA, had just completed a very expensive, major renovation on its entire facility. Over the next few months, they began to receive many complaints that the elevators were too slow. The Otis elevator team was called in and said, “No problem, we can get you a faster elevator. We’ll have to widen the shafts.” The hotel management said, “There is no way you are widening the elevator shafts, since we just completed a major renovation and we are not wrecking our hotel to install new shafts. We just want faster elevators!”

Tensions escalated between the hotel and Otis, and after many months of haggling, threatening and arguing, over faster elevators, a consultant for Otis, was called in to assess the options. Through interviews and discussion, it became clear that “faster elevators” was not the real need. That was only a positional statement to fix the real need. The real need was satisfied, happy hotel guests. Two months later, the problem was resolved, the complaints had stopped and the elevators were no faster. The fix was only a few thousand dollars. The Otis team placed mirrors in the elevator and on each floor, so people had something to do, while waiting for the elevators.

‘Their thinking’, gets to real needs, and allows us to come up with creative resolutions. We win when we stop digging in heels in order to look right, and open up the creativity chambers of our brains, to meet real needs. We need to ask ‘their thinking’ questions that require a more complex answer than ‘saving or making money.’

We need to ask questions that reveal the answer to “WHY?” Answers like….

“…so my guests are happy”

“…so I am not embarrassed”

“…to gain respect from my colleagues”

“…to maintain my current employment”

“…to support my kids”

“…to impress my new boss”

“…to feel less fearful”

“…to not appear weak or make a poor deal or decision”

“…so others don’t see me as unfair or dishonest”

Only in trusting relationships will we reveal these real human value needs. When we can get agreement to real needs for both parties – that is what we call creativity. When preparing to negotiate, please list out their wants and needs first. If we list our needs first, their needs simply look opposite of our needs. THEIR WANTS ARE NOT THE OPPOSITE OF OUR WANTS.

P.S. Best negotiators by far… Kids!

Negotiations are a balance of relationships and tasks. Kids have unconditional love and trust when negotiating with parents. The y-axis of relationships in negotiations is non-existent for kids and so they talk only from an x-axis of the task. They hold out for cookies, to stay up later, or for driving privileges with amazing tenacity, as the relationship of love is not in play.

We negotiate the ‘who’ in our life, balanced with the ‘what.’


  1. Jim–

    Long time. I’m thinking WIIFO refers to “Others:… not Otis… In which case, the customer lens is imperative in sales. We have seen so many “customer focused ‘xyz’ programs out there. But understanding the buyers and contributors to the DMT through their lens is key. Down to the professional and personal goals… where they get their information, who they trust… the Persona has evolved 10 fold+ since customer focused approach evolved “walk a mile in their shoes….” as we used to say in the Puzzle Palace. Great story that I have held with me for the last decade. definitely gives perspective to the way we approach and solve problems for others

    Hope all is great!


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