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Shah on Being Real

January 4, 2013

Excerpted from The Commanding Self, by Idries Shah:

A man went into a merchant’s shop and argued fiercely over prices – and the proprietor was very attentive to him.

Then another came in, and the owner dealt very firmly with him, bargaining closely and not sparing his comments.

When both had gone, the assistant asked his master:

‘Why did you behave differently towards each of those two men?’

The merchant said:

‘The first one wasn’t going to pay, he was not even going to buy, as I knew from experience.  So I took no real interest in him professionally.  This left me free to allow good behaviour to have its full expression.  He was superficial, but I pleased him, which was all that could be done.

‘The second customer was serious and genuine: and so I treated him as a colleague and dealt with him professionally.  Naturally, the discussion took a different form.

‘The first transaction was planned to avoid unpleasantness with the unreliable (who always demand politeness as they mistake this for something real); the second was to provide mutual advantage by concentrating on what was really relevant to both of us.  Naturally we could not guarantee amusement as well.”

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