Author: Thorsten Hofmann, C4 Institute, Quadriga University Berlin

Thorsten Hofmann leads the CfN (Center for Negotiation) at the Quadriga University Berlin’s Institute for Crisis, Change and Conflict Communication C4. He is an internationally certified Negotiation Trainer and advises corporations and organisations in complex negotiation processes.

Brexit: Why success in negotiations depends on the right expectation management

The difficult Brexit negotiations are a clear demonstration of why success in negotiations heavily depends on having a clear mandate. Theresa May made the mistake of first negotiating a result externally with the EU and then hoping to get an internal mandate for it – a wrong order with considerable consequences. Now Europe is plunged into a crisis and May almost lost her own office. Within the EU the Brexit sub-dealers ask themselves: can we still agree on results with such a negotiating partner if it is not clear what weight her word has within her own ranks? How reliable will a next agreement be? And is it at all still possible to rely on her statements?

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Distant Profiling – Knowing how your opponent works

Are you rather the dominant, vigilant or self-centered type? And what about your counterpart? Is he or she manipulative, conscientious or even a psychopath? The ability to decipher people is fundamentally critical to success. Even if behavioural profiling, or “Distant Profiling” without direct access to the negotiating partner, is commonly known from the US-American criminal environment, the tools are also extremely helpful in preparing for difficult negotiations. Because if you know your counterpart, you can positively influence the course of the negotiation.

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Tactical empathy in negotiations – an underestimated success factor

The “rational actor” in negotiations has served its time. At the latest since the two scientists, psychologists and later Nobel laureates Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman at the Californian universities of Stanford and Berkeley, focused on the “emotional actor” at the beginning of the 1970s, and finally identified emotions as the driving force for behavior, ways of thinking and distortions of perception. A special FBI unit, the Critical Incident Response Group, founded in 1994, has long experimented with therapeutic approaches that appeal to the human need for acceptance. It is no longer a matter of convincing the opposing side with logical arguments, but of establishing a positive relationship with it for tactical reasons. The aim is to influence the formation of judgments about uncertain or unknown facts (judgment heuristics) and to work with cognitive distortions. Empathy instead of mathematics, emotional instead of rational problem solving – this is the new tactic. And: It works!

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Cat got your tongue? Avoiding language barriers and pitfalls in negotiations

George Bernard Shaw once said: “The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Even when negotiating partners share the same mother tongue, misunderstandings or difficulties can arise – with costly consequences. Language can mean different things and express different ideas to different people This can be even more difficult if those undertaking the negotiation do not share a mother tongue, as it occurs in ESL-negotiations (English as Second Language). Here, pitfalls are even more likely. With the help of an interpreter, language barriers can usually be overcome – but the use of a translator should still ensure they are well prepared.

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Adaptors, Facial Expressions and NOT-Face or how to spot a Liar in Negotiations

Just about everyone you know tells low-stakes lies and let’s be honest, each one of us sometimes falls for a little white lie. Small lies are part of everyday life: several times a day we tell the untruth. Not every lie is morally reprehensible from a psychological point of view. We often want to spare somebody’s feelings or avoid disputes and conflicts. It is therefore a fact that our social interaction cannot work without lies. However, there are situations in which lies do not serve the social coexistence, but lead to the individual disadvantage of the deceived party.

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„Tit for tat“ – Trade dispute between USA, China and the EU

„Tit for tat” – a principle that one would more likely expect to find in the playground than in international trade policy. What the layman might not comprehend, is for the professional a psychological tactic using the heuristics of judgement of the opponent. In the trade dispute between the USA, China and the EU, this very negotiating strategy is used to curb “unfriendly behavior”. Donald Trump began with the increase of punitive tariffs, which triggered a chain of counteractions with other nations. A behavior that is reminiscent of the so-called “tit for tat” strategy. The USA and China in particular have thus maneuvered themselves into a prisoner’s dilemma that was now threatening to escalate. How could this have happened and is there a way out of the dilemma?

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Professional teams vs. amateur teams – Rules for the team constellation

The 2018 FIFA World Cup is finally upon us. The greatest soccer players on the planet have taken the center stage in Russia. All over the world, matches are watched by millions of fans hoping to see their teams winning the popular trophy. In the end, it is not only the fitness and technique of individual players, but the strength and cohesion of the entire team that decides which team is going to win. Learning from the World Cup means learning to win. The star is the team and everyone knows what to do, where and when. A perfectly coordinated team has the quality to beat even teams with one or two superstars, that fail to coordinate their set-up. Everyone knows their tasks and their area of responsibility. But why do many negotiating teams fail to achieve their goals? And what makes some teams succeed, and others fail?

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The last impression is the lasting impression: 4 strategies to Close a Negotiation successfully

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. We have all heard this line before. So,   true indeed. But it is the last impression we remember most. That also applies to negotiation situations. In every negotiation there are two pivotal moments. The beginning and the end of a conversation largely decide the success of the negotiation. Psychologically, the last impression is even more important than the first one. It is the last impression, which has a strong influence on someone’s judgement. Because no matter whether in a budget negotiation or when buying a new car – who cannot hold out until the end, negates his hard negotiating position. But how does one successfully end a negotiation?

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Confidentiality of German grand coalition negotiations. Thorsten Hofmann in the Handelsblatt.

No twitter, no balcony, no media. Nothing of the grand coalition talks between CDU, CSU and SPD was supposed to be leaked to the public. Yet the agreed confidentiality did not last for long. Thorsten Hofmann is not surprised at all. In his interview with Handelsblatt, the negotiation expert explains, why the toughest opponent is always oneself.

Read the full article here (in German).