She’s done it: Ursula von der Leyen will be the first woman to head the European Commission beginning November 2019. Being elected from the ranks of parliament, including with the votes of the S&D, the Alliance of Social Democrats, only the SPD, due to its unilateral rejection of the von der Leyen campaign, came out of the vote looking bad. But why did the German Social Democrats insist on rejecting her against their better judgement? The answer is the so-called “group thinking” effect, a phenomenon that can be traced back to dysfunctional interaction patterns of a group. This effect can also occur frequently in negotiations and negatively impact their progress and chances of success
Author: Thorsten Hofmann, C4 Institute, Quadriga University Berlin
The sun is burning, your body is sweating, and your head is screaming for a cool drink and a shady spot to relax. However, the challenges of the workday have called, and a heated negotiation is imminent. These are not exactly ideal conditions to ensure you a concentrated and controlled approach in negotiations. But with a few tips and tricks, you can use these adverse circumstances to your advantage – and negotiate successfully despite hot temperatures.
In the UK Theresa May announced her resignation as party leader on 7th of June and new positions are also being filled in the European Union following the last parliamentary elections. However, an exchange of negotiators also has a decisive influence on the further course of the negotiations and the outcome. These are unpredictable variables for the ongoing Brexit negotiations. On the one hand, this can bring new movement into the stalled situation, while on the other hand it increases the risk of a no-deal exit.
“Nothing is in the mind that would not have been in perception before,” says an Arab proverb. Listening and observing carefully in negotiations is a critical skill for success. It makes the difference between a right and a wrong decision and leads to a good or bad negotiation result. But is everything really the way we “perceive” it? Or are we subject to distortions and manipulations? As psychologists and behavioral economists have found out in numerous studies, cognitive distortions impair our ability to make good and well-founded judgments. Even if we supposedly rationally enter into a negotiation, research shows that human decisions tend to be flawed and biased.
The potential of bots and artificial intelligence is great. Whether autonomous cars or digital language assistants – our lives today are increasingly shaped by artificial intelligence. The application in customer service is particularly successful. Chatbots can successfully interact with customers, answer their questions and solve any problems. Even when calling the customer hotline, today it is often no longer possible to say with certainty whether you are dealing with a person or a social bot at the other end. The successful use of AI in interaction with people thus enables new applications, for example in negotiations.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.