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"I understand your situation"

Jan 30, 2018

Have you ever said something along these lines? In a negotiation, this sentence is a grave mistake. By saying that you understand their situation, you are claiming to understand the other party.

Based on my experience, you simply cannot fully understand your negotiating partner; everyone you face in a negotiation will have their own value system. Consequentially, they will also have a different perception of situations and feelings from your own.

As Arthur Schopenhauer puts it in a nutshell: "In the same environment, people live in different worlds."

"Values under pressure" was a guiding theme during the World Economic Forum in Davos. A more accurate theme would have been "own values under pressure", since anyone’s apprehensions stem from his/her own values. Theresa May does not mind Brexit, Angela Merkel sees no negative consequences to a 5 month government formation period, and Donald Trump defines "America First" from his own perspective.

You cannot understand these politicians. If you were to negotiate with May, Merkel or Trump, you would not be able to truly understand them and therefore convince them. The goal of a negotiation is not to push convictions, but to find solutions.

Negotiation advice:

  • Avoid sentences such as "I understand you"
  • The goal of a negotiation is to find a solution, not to agree on convictions.
  • Avoid arguments: negotiate with clear demands and frequent summaries
For our analysis of negotiation strategies and tactics used during the World Economic Forum in Davos, visit and follow :