Negotiations often start with the question “What do you want?” The more important question, according to the authors of this classic book on negotiation theory, is “Why do you want that?” Understanding the interests that determine the positions is critical when searching for a wise solution. It isn’t easy. While positions are likely to be concrete and explicit, the interests that underlie them may well be unexpressed, intangible, and perhaps inconsistent (45). Uncovering the needs, desires, concerns and fears that provide motivation for the positions takes work. However, identifying them will increase the chances of finding an agreement.
Roger Fisher, and William Ury with Bruce Patton, Editor, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, 3rd ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 2011), 46.