There’s two ways of framing this question; and it affects the way we answer the question when it comes to being a parent, a teacher, a boss or a friend. When we get ask this ‘WIIFM’ question (I realised there’s such an acronym when I googled), it is often when we are put into an active position of persuasion. Trust me, it is an opportunity to discover more about the person you are persuading and also more about yourself and your thinking.
The first way of thinking is that the person is selfish or self-entered so you have to appeal to his ‘benefit’ in the narrow sense of the word. So you have think of what are the direct rewards for him if he were to take the course of action you recommend. This is usually the approach that product advertising undertakes. They will try to create that target persona audience they are speaking to, and share the product benefits for this target persona. The thing about considering others to be the selfish one makes you think of it all as a zero-sum game where if you convince the person, you win, and if you fail to convince him, then he wins.
There is a second way of thinking about the person, and the question, which probably is a little less obvious. It is thinking of it not so much as a question of benefits but of personal context. That is, the questioner is trying to figure out the implications of the recommended course of action in his/her personal context. That means not just the good but the bad, the tangibles and the intangibles.
Answering the question this second way is important because it gradually puts you on the same side as the one you’re trying to persuade. It puts honesty and sincerity at the fore. It dispenses with window dressing and trying to do a show. And this is often the approach for brand advertising where you seed and put leverage in the culture. So the next time you try to persuade or answer this WIIFM question, be reminded of the potential of this different way of looking at it.