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Find the why in their what

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Negotiation touches every part of our lives. Relationships in business and in our personal lives are negotiated. And the skills to do it effectively can often mean the difference between getting what you want or losing out. You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate!

In the first section of the book, How to be a Great Negotiator, written by property economist, investor and developer Neville Berkowitz, the characteristic traits of a great negotiator are explored in short, bite-sized nuggets of advice.

Over the next 132 days, we will bring you the traits needed to succeed at the art of negotiating.

(Courtesy of PersonalEmpowerment.co)

50 Fundamental interests

In the initial phases of a negotiation, you must first establish the other party’s basic need: what they want that you have or can help them obtain, the practical or obvious reason they have come to you or you have gone to them. It’s fine to begin with friendly talk, to establish rapport, but until you establish their basic need, the negotiation cannot truly begin or proceed in a meaningful direction. The simplest way of doing this is by asking them directly, “So, how can I help you?”

Once they tell you their basic need – what they want – it’s up to you to discover their fundamental interests: the inner, character-revealing “why” behind the basic need. These may be emotional or psychological factors, or the unique circumstances behind their basic need. When you know the other party’s fundamental interests – the “why” behind the “what”- you have your finger on the pulse of the negotiation, and you can negotiate more effectively.

For example, say the other party has come to your store to buy a new stereo. The stereo is the “what,” the basic need. But you need to know the “why” behind it. Are they passionate audiophiles, true connoisseurs? Is this stereo a reflection of their self-image, as important to them in terms of status as in sound quality? Are they buying the stereo as a birthday gift for their teenager? Are they simply seeking the best quality system they can afford within a limited budget? With the connoisseur, the fundamental interests are quality, passion and image. With the parent, it’s pleasing a teenager. With the third party, it’s budget, and then quality.

Or suppose you’re a car dealer and a man comes in to buy a new car. Is he married with two children and looking for a reliable, roomy family car? Is he looking for a sturdy, affordable work truck for his newly started landscaping business? Is he a divorced middle-aged man seeking his dream car – Viagra on wheels – to help him recapture a sense of power and youth?

By listening and observing intently and asking the right questions, you start to understand the “why” of the negotiation, which is the fundamental interests behind the basic need. Knowing the “why” illuminates the “what,” allowing you to address it more specifically and effectively in the negotiation. When you understand the “why,” you can better direct the negotiation in a more nuanced and subtle way. You may substitute the “what” the other party thought they wanted for something better or more suitable that they didn’t know was available. And this is a win/win solution.

When you can meet both the basic need and the fundamental interests, a successful outcome is virtually guaranteed. So, a great negotiator always listens and observes attentively and asks questions in order to learn the “why” behind the “what.”


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