The self fulfilling prophecy

Von Stefan Kühn

Many Negotiators have more or less clear ideas of how existing negotiations should run and mostly feel in retrospect that their foresight is confirmed. This often has less to do with analytical or clairvoyant abilities and rather more to do with psychological influencing factors.


Whoever believes in advance that their opposite number will use hardball negotiating tactics, characterises his/her own behaviour before and during the negotiations. Whoever in such a situation anchors low or retreats, will prompt greater demands. Whoever jumps in rigorously, will prompt rejection or counterpressure. As always, the prophecy will be fulfilled.

  • Remain relaxed in your preparations and evaluate the situation in a sober manner. Obtain a second opinion, so as to be able to evaluate the situation objectively.
  • Prepare yourself seriously and objectively, that will give you security. Any over or underestimates will weaken you. Strike in a way that you negotiate on the same level with the counterparty and keep everything under control, avoiding the need to have to give a straight yes or no when under pressure.



Even the person who enters a negotiation with a positive and confident impression, can run the risk of becoming fickle. Whoever knows their own red cards (Triggers), can with good preparation keep control and take countermeasures if necessary.

  • If you already know in advance, how you will react to hard, provocative or unfair questions, you will remain on course to not having to give in.
  • Prepare your answers to the most difficult of all questions in advance. Should you be asked them and not be able to avoid them, you have an objective answer ready to pull out of the bag.



Every negotiation has its own dynamic – unforeseen events have to be prepared for at all times. Whoever follows tips 1 and 2, remains open, without having to retreat back from their requests.

  • Approach the situation dynamically. Whoever behaves obstinately, influences the negotiations in the same way and this usually ends up in a dead end situation.
  • Accept that you will never really be able to know how the negotiations will run. Being fixated on a set scenario is not advantageous and will inhibit you.
  • Do not allow yourself to be provoked. You should only switch to a stronger pace if it is not working otherwise – and there is no turning back.

About the author

Stefan Kühn
Negotiation expert

Stefan Kühn is a senior international negotiator, mediator and facilitator and experienced in high-risk and high-stakes negotiations in sensitive markets. He successfully conducts national and international multi-party negotiations and consults businesses, organizations and governmental bodies in demanding and conflicting situations. Stefan Kühn graduated from Harvard University and Oxford Saïd Business School and holds a Master of Science in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution and an MBA.