security, love and belonging

Gain an Advantage Negotiating Beyond Your “Usual Suspects” and Understand Motivations

Uncovering people’s motivations beyond the “Usual Suspects” of your assumptions can really pay-off.

A little understanding of what motivates others will go a long way in your negotiation outcomes. People are motivated by things we can’t see and often don’t understand. We see the world only through our own lens, our own experience, which limits creativity in negotiations. It takes conscious effort to see beyond the most obvious solutions, the short list of things we all negotiate about, so we only come up with the same-old list of negotiables: price, delivery, deadlines, T&Cs, and so on.

Beyond the “Usual Suspects”

“The term comes from a line in the classic film Casablanca (1942), where the corrupt police chief, anxious to cover up the murder of a Nazi officer, tells a subordinate to “round up the usual suspects,” meaning that the police should find a bunch of random criminals to be questioned hoping to randomly get one of them to confess.”  In negotiations, the “Usual Suspects” are what we assume to be motivating the other parties.

Take a moment to think through your own motivations. How do you get beyond the list of “Usual Suspects” to come up with solutions that meet your needs and the needs of the other party?

This is where the understanding of what motivates others comes in handy. It’s not easy to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, to see the world through their eyes or to identify what will make them happy. Negotiation advisors will always tell you to focus on underlying needs, or motivations, which are subtle.

Start by understanding that:

  • A need is something you must have to survive, commonly categorized in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (see below).
  • A want is something that you would like to have, but if you don’t get it, you won’t die.

Those who are able to understand and satisfy your needs are able to come up with more long-term, sustainable and profitable solutions for everyone.

Using humor from The Office to teach us about satisfying Needs

In 1943, Abraham Maslow published a psychological theory in a paper called “A Theory of Human Motivation”. This theory became known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and formed the understanding what motivates humans at different levels of performance.

It was Maslow who said, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” (‘Maslow’s Hammer’ – Abraham Maslow, 1966)

To avoid solving all our negotiation challenges with our list of usual suspects (aka the nail), let’s look at the complex nature of meeting human needs through the lens of the NBC hit comedy, The Office to illustrate.

Maslow Hierarchy of Needs

Each person has unique needs. In Art of the Swap, Dwight leverages his knowledge of the needs of co-workers to make advantageous trades.

To figure out creative solutions in your negotiations and leverage your own knowledge of needs, let’s take a look at Maslow’s hierarchy:

Level 1: Physiological – Needs required for survival such as food, water, and protection from the elements.

Understanding these needs in your negotiations

You probably won’t ever negotiate at this level of needs, unless you are negotiating for a non-profit providing a life-saving resource such as water, or negotiating in a hostage situation. Most of you will not be negotiating with someone who’s base needs on the Physiological level haven’t been met. Things like food, water, clothing and sleep have been addressed in most business situations. Well, maybe not sleep, but let’s leave your late-night Netflix binging habits for another blog post.

Let’s laugh with The Office

To keep everyone in your office alive, your company may offer first aid training.  Although you’ll likely never need this one, it’s really funny and illustrates…well, it’s loosely tied to survival, and I like you, so enjoy First Aid fail. After all, “This is why we have training…Now Dwight knows not to cut the face off a real person.”

Level 2: Safety – In addition to safety from war or family violence, these needs in business extend to job security, saving money for emergencies, and insurance policies.

Understand these needs in your negotiations:

Your desire to live comfortably, to feel as if you belong and have job security. The people you work with will fight hard to keep their jobs if they feel threatened, and they will help you if there’s a chance for them to look good. If you’re negotiating with someone who is rewarded for the results of their negotiations in their bonuses or performance reviews, you need to know it so you can find ways to strengthen their job security.

Look for ways to bolster job security through recognition. Are there things you can do to make this person look good to his/her boss? Many times people give something up in a negotiation like a long term volume commitment, if it means that they get something even more valuable, like a lower price that they can brag about and be recognized for by their manager.

Another great example from The Office

Watch Michael deliver a letter of recommendation to Dwight, with a bonus paintball fight. Dwight appreciated the paintball fight way more than the letter. Pay attention, you may be surprised what motivates other people.

Level 3: Social connections/belonging – Motivation to have friends, family, and community, which includes a sense of belonging with your co-workers.

Understanding these needs in your negotiations:

Most of us spend at least 40 hours/week at work, so getting along well with others is important. People choose to do business with people they know and respect. Want to learn more about ways to build this kind of rapport?

What can you do to support workplace harmony and a positive culture? The way we interact with one another, support one another in reaching our goals and give credit when it’s due leads to higher levels of engagement.

More to laugh about at The Office

“How we felt, how we made each other laugh and how we got through the day” in No Place Like the Office. “No matter how you get there or where you end up, human beings have this miraculous gift to make that place home.”

Level 4: Esteem– We have a need for both self-respect and recognition by our community.

Understanding these needs in your negotiations:

You see the need for recognition in our love of social media. Posting on LinkedIn to share your ideas and success, to get recognized for results, falls into the same category as sharing your vacations and family accomplishments on Facebook. It’s also why we ask our co-workers or vendors to write a thank you note to our boss to publically praise something that we did. It’s why we go for promotions.

Another lesson from The Office

What not to do when you recognize accomplishments, as Dwight Becomes Assistant Regional Manager.

Level 5: Self-Actualization – The desire to be the best you can be at work, in your hobby or sport. To do the most fulfilling work, be the best parent, friend or co-worker possible.

Understanding these needs in your negotiations:

It’s been suggested that less than 2% of the population operates on this level, so be aware of it, but don’t spend a ton of your effort on looking for ways that you can satisfy needs at this level. People want to feel as if they have meaning in their lives, some of them find that meaning at work.

These people love their company, feel fulfilled, and often look for ways to help others. At this level, people are motivated by volunteering for personal growth. If you are negotiating with someone who you share a passion, you may find ways to strengthen your relationship by volunteering or contributing resources to help their cause.

Last time, promise, going back to The Office

Michael donates to a walkathon charity fundraiser.

The Bottom Line: Getting beyond the “Usual Suspects” in your assumptions might be the beginning of a much better relationship.

To get beyond your own “usual suspects” in negotiations, have some fun with uncovering what motivates your suppliers, customers or team mates. It’s easy to get bogged down by the serious nature of satisfying needs to come up with creative ideas! If you spend some time planning, you can come up with creative trades based on these pretty straight-forward human needs:

  • The need to be recognized for effort and for success.
  • The need to have harmony at work, through great vendor and peer relationships.
  • The need for job security.
  • The need for getting closure.

Close the skill gap for your negotiators with RED BEAR Negotiation Company solutions.