Fable Friday–The Wise Librarian

Happy to negotiate that with you!

In today’s Fable Friday a librarian is working at her desk in a large municipal library when she hears a ruckus coming from one of the reading rooms down the hall.  Stepping in to investigate, she sees two men arguing vehemently and loudly about whether the window should be open or closed.

“What’s going on here?” she asks.

First Man:  “He keeps opening that window and I want it closed!”

Second Man:  “I want the window open and he keeps closing it!”

So the librarian calmly asks the second man, “Why do you want the window open?” 

He says, “Because it’s hot and stuffy in here.  I don’t see why I can’t have a little fresh air.”

The librarian asks the first man, “Then why do you want the window closed?”

“Because I’m trying to work and I’ve got notes all over the table. Every time he opens that window the wind blows my stuff all over the room.”

“Wait just a moment please,” says the librarian.  She walks over to the window and closes it, then walks down the corridor, opens the window at the end and returns to the reading room.  “I’ve opened the window down the hall.  Can you feel the cool air coming in?”  The second man nods.  “Does this eliminate the draft?” she asks the first man.  He says “It’s fine now.  Thank you.” The librarian returns to her desk, problem solved.

 What do you make of this story?  The librarian followed a basic tenet of negotiation skills known as turning demands into needs.  You can do this too, for just about any “demand” imposed upon you in a negotiation.  When you are given a demand, try to find out what the real need is behind the demand and work to solve that problem, rather than negotiating around the demand itself.


I have to get this policy underwritten by Friday.

We can’t move forward unless we’re assured of the same rate we had last time.

I need a new dress for the wedding.

Any of these demands can be handled much more easily through consultative questioning about the reasons behind the demand. (This is true for the first two, but not the last one of course.  That was thrown in there as a red herring.  You will simply have to buy the dress.)

So next time you hear a demand, don’t flinch.  Just calmly say, “Well, let’s talk about that.  Tell me why Friday (or the same rate) is important to you.” Once you know the reason behind the demand, problem-solving is much easier, and more solutions become apparent

I teach lots of programs in negotiation, and I thought you might like to hear some of the cool tips, in addition to this one.  Do you want me to do a series of these?  If so, let me know, but one of the most important of these tips is simply to

Think Like Your Customer!

 Here’s something else for you to think about before my next post.  I did a whole series on handling objections a few months ago and I made a brief reference to the power of saying absolutely nothing for just a couple of seconds in response to an objection.

There are several powerful reasons for pausing briefly before you speak. How many of them can you think of?  I’ll share them all next week.  Have a great weekend.  Gregory

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

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