A Fable About Asking for More

28 Jul 2015 Ferado

I love to read. Right now, I’m reading a little bit about how to negotiate. Here’s a funny tidbit I’d like to share with you.

There was once a very old couple who lived in a dilapidated thatched hut on a remote Pacific Island. One day, a hurricane blew through the village and demolished their home. Because they were much too old and poor to rebuild the hut, the couple moved in with their daughter and her husband. This arrangement precipitated an unpleasant domestic situation, as the daughter’s hut was barely big enough for herself, her husband, and their four children, let alone the in-laws.

The daughter went to the wise person of the village, explained the problem and asked, “Whatever will we do?”

The wise person puffed slowly on a pipe and then responded, “You have chickens, don’t you?”

“Yes,” she replied, “we have chickens.”

“Then bring the chickens into the hut with you.”

This seemed ludicrous to the daughter, but she followed the wise person’s advice. The move naturally exacerbated the problem, and the situation was soon unbearable, for feathers as well as hostile words flew around the hut. The daughter returned to the wise person, pleading for advice.

“You have pigs, don’t you?”

“Yes, we have three pigs.”

“Then you must bring the pigs into your hut with you.”

That seemed to be ridiculous advice, but to question the wise person was unthinkable, so she brought the pigs into the hut. Life was now truly unlivable, with eight people, 10 chickens, and three pigs sharing one tiny, noisy hut. Her husband complained that he couldn’t hear the radio over the racket.

The next day the daughter, fearing for her family’s sanity, approached the wise person with a final desperate plea. “Please,” she cried, “we can’t live like this. Tell me what to do and I’ll do it, but please help us.”

This time, the wise person’s response was puzzling, but easier to follow. “Remove the chickens and the pigs from your hut.” She quickly evicted the animals, and the entire family lived happlily together for the rest of their days.

The moral of the story is that a deal always looks better after something has been thrown out.

When negotiating, ask for more than you expect to get.