WIIFT: When & How to Use It (& When to Avoid It)

concept of what's in it for them with a scale

WIIFT stands for What’s In It For Them.

It postulates that if you want to influence people, you should highlight what they stand to gain in doing what you are proposing.

And that makes a lot of sense… Usually.

By the end of this article, you will gain a better understanding of when to use WIIFT, how to use it, and when it’s best not to be so direct.

When To Avoid WIIFT

What’s In It For Them is about being upfront about what you can do for them.

In Value and Availability though we showed that sometimes you want to show yourself not too available to the other party, especially in romantic situations.
WIIFT is the total opposite. WIIFT is the pinnacle of availability.

WIIFT is also not ideal for political candidates and for leaders, because, well… Often there is little in it for them and you’re better off leveraging higher ideals (see Drive by Daniel Pink).

When should we use WIIFT, then?

Let’s see:

WIIFT: For When You’re the Asker

You want to start with what’s in it for them in all situations where you play by their rules.

In those cases, you don’t have (yet) the power and social pull to demand something back.

The characteristics of these situations are:

1. Obvious power imbalances:  Power imbalances can be so obvious sometimes that there’s no point in trying to pretend they should be interested in you and that’s why you communicate first and foremost what’s in it for them

2. Not-in-person: When not in person people can’t see or get a sense of your other qualities, so you have to go right to the point of what you can do for them

3. Time starved: When you have little time you can’t let them slowly discover your qualities, so you gotta be more obvious.

Here are some examples:

  • Swipe-based online dating
  • Sales could reach out
  • Elevator pitches
  • Emailing for a job
  • Asking for funding

WIIFT: Logical Interactions

Logic-based transactions are transactions where there is no social stigma in being upfront about what you want and what you can give.

You are looking for something, they are looking for something and you have to prove to each other you have what it takes to enter into a mutually convenient transaction.

Here you want to be obvious about what you can give and at the same time be obvious and direct about what you want.

Some examples are:

  • Some types of sales
  • Arranged Marriages
  • Interviewing for jobs

No WIIFT: Social Interactions

In social interactions, you want to be more indirect.

You want to show attractive external qualities and drop hints about the less visible parts of your value.
Let them dig out for more as you slowly reveal more and more about your awesome personality.

Oh my god” they’ll be thinking, “how many other cool things is this guy hiding“.

No WIIFT: Dating

In dating the script is inverted.

Here ideally you want them to show you what’s in it for you.

Because in dating the one who’s doing the selling is communicating he’s lower in the pecking order. And people -especially women- are not very attracted to those who are beneath them.

So ideally you want to show your external qualities first and foremost, but without selling yourself on the deeper ones.
Then you build a connection by being interested in them.

Ideally, you will get physical on chemistry attraction even before she finds out about all your other deeper qualities.

Let’s check a couple of examples now:

WIIFM Examples

I will show you a couple of examples.

How to Show Value: Two Guys Looking For a Room

This is what happens when you rent a place in a city where everyone is looking for a place to stay:

rules of social exchange: high demand

I ask for a relatively high rent and yet many people always reach out (above are the messages of people who wrote on Facebook only).

This is the type one, super obvious situation: there’s a clear power imbalance because they ask and I am the chooser. Plus, it’s not in person and there is high demand.
This is when you have to front-load your value as much as you can.

Let’s see the difference between those who get it and those who are oblivious to the Rules of Social Exchanges.

The shirtless man with a selfie in front of the mirror is a great example.
I wrote my ad in English, and he writes to me in the local language, which is the first bad sign: you have to adapt to the chooser when you’re the asker.

Second, he doesn’t make it easy for me to proceed.
What am I supposed to ask him a thousand questions now about when he’s free, what he does, and if he can pay?
Not going to waste my time on that dude.

And of course, he makes the crucial mistake of not leading with what’s in it for me.

Ich brauche das” literally means “I need it”.

These are the same people who complain that nobody replies to them -and you really gotta wonder why… -.

Social Exchange rule: the wrong usage
If the message wasn’t idiotic enough the emoji sealed the deal?

Compare it to the two people who get it, which are those I invited over to get to know them.

They quickly show their interesting personalities (social currency), lay out a clear what’s in it for me (good job and ability to pay, traveling most of the time, no mess in the kitchen), and make it easy for me to say yes (propose their availability).

Now, even if I didn’t particularly care about their benefits, it shows that these are people who get it.
And we all like people who get it.

the rule of social exchange: WIIFM

the rule of social exchange: WIIFT

The “No WIIFM freeloader”

Have you read the article on freeloaders?

Check it out, it’s well-in-depth, and “no WIIFM” is the definition of freeloading.

Look at this guy asking for a free month:

example of freeloader

He starts off with no “WIIFM”.

And the sentence “the paywall has become an issue for me” tells me this guy does not see that relationships among strangers require a sort of exchange.

Especially if he had the emotional intelligence to consider that maybe I receive a lot of these emails.

But hey, if I can help, I’m happy to.

So I give him the chance of providing him with a “WIIFM”. And I tell him I’m happy to give it to him for free… If he would be willing to share the articles he likes the most on his social media.

A simple way to help him out and to help him make this a fair exchange.

Here is his reply:

an example of no WIIFM

He does not get that I’m offering him the opportunity of a fair exchange in the form of a “WIIFM”.

Instead, he keeps pressing on a deal with no “WIIFM”.

And that worries me because I’m running a values-based business that is all about learning to deal with people who seek win-lose (instead of win-win).


In The Rule of Social Exchange, we talked a bit about social currencies.

We said there that to get what you want, you have to give what people want.

In this article we differentiate a bit on when to be very direct about what we can offer, and when we should let them show us what’s in it for us instead.

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