With a sweet tongue and kindness, you can drag an elephant by a hair

Background: My informant, O, is a 19 year old male consulting over text with his 60 year old Persian aunt. He recalled hearing this proverb from his great grandparents and grandparents growing up.

In Farsi  بلسان حلو ولطف ، يمكنك جر فيل بشعر.

O: So this one has a lot to do with charisma, which is a very Persian thing because everything is very personable and negotiable, like, Persians do not really do things by the book. You can talk your way out of a lot of things in the culture, and that’s accepted, but this is sort of saying how you’re supposed to do that. You’re supposed to do it gently and kindly in order to get what you want.

My thoughts: My informant really emphasized this aspect negotiability of Persian culture with me, which I found really interesting. He told me that his aunt got upset at the pharmacy once because she couldn’t negotiate a copay. I think that contrasts a lot of our western expectation of equity, where of course, everyone is supposed to follow the same rules and be entitled to the same goods and services, whereas in this culture it may be viewed as more transactional, and based on mutual respect that things are done. Favors for favors are common and commercial rules are not as strict.