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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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From its first birthday on, the blog’s articles will also be released in English for international readers at

Berlin, 22 January 2018: For a year now, Thorsten Hofmann analyses and comments on current political and economic negotiations. For its first anniversary, the project becomes international: from now on, all articles will additionally be published in English at

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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).

Too many cooks spoil the broth. Negotiating the Jamaica-coalition

The 24th October is probably a day which is highlighted in a deep red in many calendars of political stakeholders in Berlin. At 11:00 o’clock, Wolfgang Schäuble – designated new presiding officer of the German parliament – is scheduled to open the inaugural meeting for the upcoming 19th legislative period. At least that’s currently the plan. Whether the actual coalition negotiations will have proceeded accordingly or will have started at all by that time remains to be seen.                                              

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