Back to Insights

What the Wind and the Sun Can Teach Us About Negotiation

Tyler Hall

Long ago, the Wind and the Sun quarrelled over who was stronger. Upon seeing a traveller coming down the road, the Sun said: “Now we can end our dispute. Whomever of us can make that traveller take off his cloak shall be regarded as the victor. You begin.”

The Sun retired behind a cloud while the Wind blew, blustered, and raged upon the travelling man. But the harsher he blew, the tighter the man wrapped his coat. At last, exhausted, the Wind gave up in despair.

The Sun came out and shone in all her glory upon the traveller. Soon the man tipped his face up to the warmth. He removed his coat and basked in the Sun’s rays.


This well-known Ancient Greek tale ‘The North Wind and the Sun’ is my favourite Aesop’s fable. There are many interpretations as to the meaning of the fable – ranging from moral, political and psychological. But I'd like to look at this from a negotiation perspective…


The Wind tried using force to get what he wanted but this was instantly met with resistance from the man who used his coat to defend himself from the wind’s assault.


The Sun instead took a collaborative give to get approach to achieve her objective which was met with a much more favourable response from the man.


There are many ways to resolve conflict, two of which are demonstrated in this fable. We see the Wind using a method which we call 'imposing your will' whilst the Sun uses a 'negotiation' approach – providing the man with warmth in exchange for removal of the coat.


If you choose to be like the Wind and impose your will, keep in mind you will tarnish the relationship with your counter-party each time and eventually it will break. However in certain situations it can be the right approach to take, particularly if the transaction is more important than the relationship.


You may choose to resolve a conflict as the Sun did, where it gave to get (negotiation). At the core of negotiation is a trading process.


As a negotiator, the more effective you are at uncovering areas of flexibility with the other party and yourself, the more likely you will be able to grow value in you deals, agreements and relationships. Particularly, if you can find areas that are less important for them but higher importance to you and then trade these with concessions that are less important to you but higher importance to them.


Negotiation can be such an enjoyable process, and is an opportunity to build even stronger, sustainable relationships. There's more to this story but I'll leave it there.


If you have further interest about the origin of this fable it is quite an interesting read...a bit saucy...


Happy negotiating,


Subscribe to our Blog

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. We value your privacy. For more information please refer to our Privacy Policy.