Fred Wilson leads today with a simple point:

Nothing is standard. You either need it or you don’t. Explain why you need it and most of the time you’ll get it or something like it[.]

Mr. Wilson says this in the context of contract negotitations, but it applies elsewhere.   One can iterate on the scenarios all day.

crystal_ballBut I’m more interested in one word: “it”.  Specifically, “Explain why you need it and you’ll get it.”  “It” is not “what you asked for” — but rather “what you you want.”  There’s a big difference.

When you ask for something — anything, really; this even applies to asking a clerk at the supermarket where the paper goods are — you assume that the listener has enough information to give you an answer.  Sometimes that’s true, but not always.   If you ask that supermarket clerk “Where are the paper plates?” and he replies “Aisle four,” chances are you will get what you are after.    In my neighborhood supermarket, though, that is not always true.  Yes, the Dixie and Solo and other every-day paper plates are there, as are the kid-oriented shaped like animal faces or with pictures of Elmo on them.   What you want isn’t there, and to make matters worse, there is no way to find out that high quality paper goods are, well, anywhere — in fact, if you did not know about them beforehand, you would have no reason to think they even existed.

Had you explained “My wife and I are having guests over for dinner and I need some paper goods.  Where are they?” you’d have, hopefully, gotten a different answer than “Aisle four.”   If you want to get what you want — and not just what you asked for — explain your thinking.   It is like turning the other person into a mind reader.