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– By Bjoern Hofmann, Trainer & Board Member, Rational Games –

This winter, I was part of a guided ski tour in the snow-covered high alpine mountains in France. We were three Swedes, one British fellow, one Dutch, myself a German, and a slightly older French guide.

Early in the morning in February, we took a steep and crowded cable car to the top of the mountain to ski down the glacier into the Vallée Blanche. It was bitter cold with a freezing breeze and no visibility, locked in the clouds. In retrospect, this tour made me think about negotiations in three ways: 1) the process of defining one’s own interests; 2) the power of a shared interest for a group; 3) the urgency of global negotiations.

On ‚defining one’s interests’: we were all standing at the top of the mountain, looking out into the dangerously innocent white, weighing different arguments and considerations in our minds. Should we go or should we stay? Each of us was in the process of considering interests – and forming a position. For me, it was a self-reflection looking at a situation from different perspectives, reconciling my emotions, desires and fears. The ‘negotiation’ between the heart and the mind, between the left brain (logic) and the right brain (emotions), between the shoulder angel and the shoulder devil. This process enabled me to formulate this morning’s position: yes, I will go! And all of us individually came to the same position. Defining one’s interest – the key to formulating a position!

On ‚the power of a shared interest’: as we started our descent down the steep slope, this group of diverse skiers with different skills and experiences needed to negotiate pace, technical difficulty and times of rest. In our group, this negotiation did not require a lot of words. Respect for each other, sensitivity towards each other’s skills, empathy for somebody who fell – this allowed us to negotiate the right pace and path. While we each had our own interests, expectations and emotions, we had a shared interest after we all said yes: that all of us are able to enjoy the tour and that we get down the mountain safely. This shared interest was so strong that only a few words were required to negotiate our way down this beautiful and mighty white mountain. The power of a shared interest!

Taking it to the global level: skiing down this seemingly indestructible glacier, the impact and reality of our own hypocrisy hit us – once again – hard: the sheer speed with which this mighty glacier is melting is simply frightening. This was clearly visible at the face of the mountain, where the retreating ice cover revealed the bare, naked rock. We individually need to define our personal acceptable level of our own hypocrisy – i.e. our own contribution to this process while enjoying the sensation of the skiing. But it was also obvious that there is no alternative for continued negotiations – at a truly global scale -, paired with individual activism, to urgently address the devastating climatic consequences of our own individual and collective actions. There is no alternative to global negotiations to address challenges like these.

These reflections are not great revelations. Just once in a while I find it necessary to remind myself that the need to negotiate confronts us from the time of getting out of bed in the morning to the time we go to sleep at night. So we must learn how to do it best, in our own interest but also in the interests of the people around us. Learning to identify one’s own interests and form positions through an ‘internal negotiation’, then negotiating these in a small group and finally realizing the power of a shared interest, also on a global scale. Negotiation is not rocket-science, but an essential life-skill!

Vector illustration created by Freepik.


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