Probably the most important in negotiation. Yes, a two-year old might cry why do I need to go to bed now, a twelve-year old might ask- why do I need to clean my room and a teenager might ask – why do I need to call you if I am coming home after curfew. All age appropriate retorts in a parenting context. In a negotiation, the question why is not one of defiance, but of understanding. At the core of a win-win structure, are all parties and participants in the negotiation understanding the core needs and interests of each other. This does not mean that you necessarily have to agree with what the needs are the other party is stating, but it does take a sign of character, leadership and integrity to be able to listen deeply to the other. It means that most people when listening in a conflict situation have their ears tuned into their own radio station with the call letters WIFM (What’s in it for me?). But what if we change the call letters to WETA. When there is empathy, trust and attention to what the other is saying, a conducive atmosphere is developed for a sustaining and durable settlement.
The why question is the directional focus for the negotiation. If a settlement cannot be achieved, go back to the why questions and see what is not being expressed. Remember in a deep-seated conflict, trauma, disappointment, anger, shame, fear, can be so deep rooted, not many human beings are prone to want to share themselves this roar to the bone. In When there is empathy, trust and attention (WETA) there is a greater chance for honest and authentic sharing to take place.
The true response to why often produces the tell-tale signs for a settlement structure to come into place. Participants who understand the value and import of why often leave this type of negotiation feeling better about themselves, the other, and see a brighter future.