What’s in it for me? Part 1: Requests Mean Sacrifice

man thinking really hard with graphic drawings of squiggly lines coming out of his head overwhelmed

In previous posts, I’ve alluded to “What’s in it for me?” or WIIFM as the driving force behind most decisions for most people. In this post, I’m going to dig into the concept and discuss how it comes into play when you make a request of someone. I’ll also discuss the ways you can make requests that result in agreement and cooperation—in other words, SUCCESS—for your project.

First, think of the last thing someone asked you to do. Maybe your boss asked you to come in on a Saturday to help finish a proposal. Or your spouse informed you it’s time to repaint the kitchen. Or your kid asked you to drive her to the library to meet other kids from her class for a group project. Or your doctor tells you to work on losing twenty pounds.

Did you want to do it?

Take minute and write down why you wanted to do it, or why not.

Now, guess what: those are the same thoughts your users, your employees, your spouse, and your kids—anyone—has when you ask them to do something. Most of the time when we’re asked to do something, it requires we make a change of some sort. We have to give up a Saturday off to be at the office. We have to spend time planning and executing a repaint in a kitchen where we like the wallpaper and don’t want to switch to the trendy color our spouse saw on that home makeover show. We have to take the time we already had set aside to sit on the deck and have a beer and instead hang out near the library while the kids decide who will do what on their history diorama. We have to stop eating the way we like and start exercising more.

Whether a short term change (losing a Saturday) or a long term change (giving up your afternoon snack and figuring out how to get more walking in every day), the request feels inconvenient.

And that’s because no one’s explained their request in a way that shows you What’s in it for me?

Anytime you ask something of someone—ask them to change—your best hope for success is to help them see how working with you on the request will benefit them. In other words, use an incentive to motivate them. Does coming in to work on Saturday mean you’ll get a bonus when the client accepts the proposal, or that your boss won’t fire you? Does repainting the kitchen get your spouse to stop complaining about the blue and tan wallpaper or make you spouse happy with the yellow walls you’ve discussed sine moving in? Does taking your kid to the library just cost you the basketball game you were panning on watching, or help your kid bring up a grade she’s struggling with? Does losing twenty pounds mean skipping Friday donuts at the office to look better at the pool this summer or to prevent health issues so you can see your grandkids grow up?

Your request needs to include these motivations. Understanding how these motivations work will help you make effective requests that get the support to be successful.

Next Time –
Part 2: Enter the Matrix