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Negotiators Need to Know "The Rest of the Story"

And now you know…the rest of the story.

- Paul Harvey, Oklahoma native, for five decades delightfully and successfully brought backstories and history to life. He explained how things turned out the way they did.


This concept "The Rest of the Story (ROTS)" was presented by beloved radio star Paul Harvey. He would tell a story that most people knew. There would be a pause and then he would tell part two: the part of the story people did not know.

According to Wikipedia:

The Rest of the Story was a Monday-through-Friday radio program originally hosted by Paul Harvey.[1] Beginning as a part of his newscasts during the Second World War and then premiering as its own series on the ABC Radio Networks on May 10, 1976, The Rest of the Story consisted of stories presented as little-known or forgotten facts on a variety of subjects with some key element of the story (usually the name of some well-known person) held back until the end. The broadcasts always concluded with a variation on the tag line, "And now you know...the rest of the story."

This is an intriguing concept. For negotiators and problem solvers, the ROTS involves:

  • Use of critical thinking

  • Questioning and listening skills

  • Curiosity

  • Avoiding assumptions.

How An Effective Negotiator Operates

An effective negotiator needs to know all of the:

  • Facts

  • Perspectives

  • Positions and underlying interests

They want to be goal oriented and yet walk around the perimeter gauging what else may be affecting this negotiation.

Finally, they want to know “The Rest of the Story.”

Example: Workplace Discrimination

Dale hired Attorney DR because he was fired from his law firm. He had worked there successfully for 12 years with excellent reviews but the last 8 months the reviews had turned sour. What happened?

Attorney DR learned that Dale had shared information with his direct supervisor that he had been accepted for an experimental medical trial. This medical trial might incapacitate him for one week out of each month. Dale rarely took sick days but still he did not have enough sick days to accommodate these absences. This compelled Dale to reveal the heretofore hidden information and seek accommodation.

DR also learned that the law firm was in the process of changing insurance companies. The law firm wanted to project to the insurance company “a healthy group,” surely no one on a medical trial.

To confuse the situation, along with firing Dale, the law firm fired 4 attorneys of a diverse mixture.

Luckily armed with all of this “hidden information” DR had “the rest of the story” and was able to successfully resolve the discrimination case.

Example: Celebrated Author and Thinker Malcolm Gladwell Uses ROTS

Gladwell in his books Blink and David and Goliath uses the Rest of the Story method of narration.

In David and Goliath, Gladwell begins with the usual tale of the seemingly weak overcoming the powerful. It was a miracle! This is the usual story. But Gladwell tells what he considers to be the rest of the story.

  • Goliath was large, possibly inflicted by acromegaly aka gigantism.

  • His largeness actually made him clumsy and slow.

  • He may have been vision impaired by acromegaly which accounts for the presence of his attendant.

  • He was loaded with weapons and armor which weighed him down.

  • Possibly Goliath would have won in sword to sword or hand to hand combat.

After none of the Israelites volunteered to fight Goliath, David volunteered having persuaded them that any weapon could be used, including his sling.

  • David was an expert “slinger” aka sling shots, which could be lethally accurate up to 200 yards.

  • In contrast to Goliath, David was small but lithe.

So, maybe this was not a miracle, but instead folks making a lot of assumptions?

In this excellent book Blink, The Art of Thinking Without Thinking, Gladwell describes the assumption that the best thinking is when one has gathered much information and has consumed much time in decision-making.

He gives many examples of the ROTS when folks have made intuitive or snap decisions based on a few key factors which he calls “thin-slicing.”

Example: Eviction and the ROTS

Several years ago in the District of Columbia, an immigrant from Central America was evicted. Her belongings were strewn all about two streets. People were appalled. The media was captivated by this situation, fitting it into their narrative of immigrants being mistreated. The mayor and the local council member become involved. All 3 major networks included this story, including filming from helicopters.

The Rest of the Story: The helicopters and the media disappeared within hours. Why? It was revealed that she had not paid her rent for over 8 months. She had sublet her place to three different people who had paid her their rent on time. Further she was a hoarder and lived in a fire hazard situation. The sublet tenants reported that they could barely move through the hallways. Finally, she owned three homes for her family members in her home country.

Example: Restaurant Mayhem and the ROTS

Jose seeks the advice of an attorney/negotiator.

Version One: I am Jose and identify as non-binary. I just got the job of my dreams. I asked several friends to celebrate at a nearby restaurant. We were having an enjoyable time when a large security guard confronted me stating that I had brought in outside liquor. I respectfully stated that I had not. He said he had seen the violation on camera. He then physically forced me to leave, dragging me by my arms, legs and hair. I suffered humiliation, lots of bruises, and a broken rib. I want to sue the restaurant, the security guards, and the city.

Version Two: I am Jose and identify as non-binary. I just got the job of my dreams. I called my buds. We like to party hard and we were doing just that when this giant security guard arrived, claiming that I had brought in outside liquor. I was offended and I know my rights. I told him that he was wrong. He demanded that I leave. I shouted many expletives as did my friends. This was pure discrimination. No white straight dude would be treated this way. I and my buds tried to resist but the Security Guards literally dragged us down the stairs and threw us out. I want to sue for my humiliation and injuries.

Comment: Surely one has a very different reaction to the versions. In version one, most attorneys would accept the case. Version Two, not so much.

Not Being Open or Honest about Incriminating Information

People often, even to their attorneys, do not tell “the whole story,” especially if there is incriminating information that is detrimental to their narrative.

Workplace Example Version One: Maria and I are peers and competing for the same promotion. I can only do my job efficiently if I have reliable information from Maria. Instead of being open, she hides information and often reveals this information at staff meetings after I have made my decision and presentation, making me look like a fool. I confronted her. An argument ensued. Other employees overheard. I apologized but she reported me to HR. They gave me the option of resigning or being fired.

Workplace Example Version Two: Maria and I are peers and competing for the same promotion. I hate her and want her gone. One Friday afternoon, I had had it after discovering another incident. I raced to her office and confronted her, calling her a manipulative B*tch! She ignored me and went to the lunchroom. I ran after her to get to admit what she had done. She denied it. An open argument ensued which other people overheard. I did say that she could go F—K herself! I did apologize saying I was sorry that she was threatened by my competence. She did not accept the apology and went to HR. HR reminded me of two other angry outbursts I had had and gave me the choice of resigning or being fired.

An attorney or union representative would enthusiastically take the first version. The second version, not so much.

Initially, in reading these two versions, one might think of “perspectives and perceptions.” But this type of communication is not that. Attorneys or union representatives, in order to negotiate effectively, must set the stage for open and honest communication. There are several behaviors they can exude in order to obtain the ROTS:

  • Be nonjudgmental

  • Be empathetic and compassionate

  • Ask open-ended and probing questions

  • Be curious

  • Discover what underlies the surface, what are the underlying needs and motives

  • Listen for what is being said and not said

  • Avoid assumptions

  • If one is an attorney, emphasize the confidentiality between a client and attorney.

Attorneys and representatives should understand why clients often give them incomplete information or incomplete truth. The person often wants to make a great impression; They want the halo effect. They may be ashamed. They may think that the attorney or union representative will think less of them, not like them or maybe not work as hard for them.


“The Rest of the Story” is a fascinating concept.

Ohio attorney, mediator and adjunct professor Terry Wheeler offers this comment:

As I think I about ROTS, I wonder if ROTS can be both positive and negative. Sometimes ROTS is what people leave out to make themselves look better as they tell about a situation or try to improve their negotiation power. Sometimes ROTS might be considered the interests behind the stated position. Or ROTS might be information that people are too humble or embarrassed to share, but the information would provide a more complete history or perspective.

An effective negotiator needs to know the ROTS for both their side and all of the other sides. They seek to know the positions, the perspectives, the facts, and also the underlying motives and needs. All of this sets the stage for creative problem solving.

NOTE: All of the examples above are fiction and are meant to provoke discussion.


See Recommended Books under “Blogs” drop down menu. Clicking on any book will lead one to the discounted Amazon site.

Roy J. Lewicki is the author of 'Essentials of Negotiation', published 2015 under ISBN 9780077862466 and ISBN 0077862465. Publisher: McGraw Hill Higher Education

The Conflict Resolution Training Program, Leader’s Manual, ISBN: 0-7879-6077-2. Prudence Bowman Kestner and Larry Ray

5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.

Getting Your Way Every Day.


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