Have you ever thought about how the Second Law of Thermodynamics applies to our negotiations as well? I recently came across a fascinating blog article by German psychologist Roland Kopp-Wichmann, titled “Man, Woman, Relationships – and the Second Law of Thermodynamics”. The article uses this law – the principle that everything tends to get worse over time without active intervention – as a metaphor for relationships. Just like a car, garden, or house, relationships require regular maintenance and attention to thrive. This concept can be applied to negotiation relationships, especially when we move into Partnership or SMARTnership which, quite naturally, require ongoing attention, care, and honest effort to sustainable maintain, here are some valuable insights:

The Interplay of Personal and Professional Life

Kopp-Wichmann emphasizes the interconnectedness of personal and professional life. As negotiators, we must recognize that our personal emotions and unconscious biases can influence our professional interactions. By acknowledging this interplay, we can better manage our emotions and approach negotiations with a clear, focused mind.

Active Maintenance in Negotiations

Just as a garden or a house requires regular maintenance to thrive, so do our negotiation relationships. Without active intervention, relationships can deteriorate over time – a concept mirrored in the second law of thermodynamics. As negotiators, we must continually invest time and effort into maintaining our important relationships, ensuring they remain strong and productive.

Communication: The Heart of Successful Negotiations

The article highlights the importance of open, honest, and regular communication in maintaining a healthy relationship. This is a key skill for negotiators, who must be able to effectively communicate their needs, understand the needs of others, and find common ground. Regular check-ins, active listening, and clear communication can help prevent misunderstandings and build trust.

Avoiding Projection in Negotiations

Kopp-Wichmann warns against the danger of projecting unresolved personal issues onto one’s partner. In a negotiation context, this serves as a reminder to be aware of our own biases and not to attribute them to the other party. By recognizing and addressing our own issues in time, we can approach negotiations with a clear mind and a fair perspective.

Balancing Emotion and Strategy in Negotiations

The article distinguishes between love, which is spontaneous and unpredictable, and partnership, which involves conscious decisions and negotiations. This balance between emotional connection and strategic decision-making is crucial in negotiations. While emotional intelligence can help us understand and connect with others, strategic thinking allows us to always make decisions that perfectly align with our goals.

By understanding the interplay of personal and professional life, actively maintaining our relationships, communicating effectively, avoiding projection, and balancing emotion and strategy, we can become more effective human beings and negotiators. As the second law of thermodynamics reminds us, maintaining a system requires honest effort – but the results are well worth it.

So, how will you apply the Second Law of Thermodynamics to your next negotiation?

In negotiations, the concept of value often takes center stage. Traditionally, this value is viewed in objective terms – the tangible benefits and outcomes that one or both parties gain from the negotiation. However, a deeper dive into the art of negotiation reveals a more nuanced perspective, one that recognizes the importance of subjective values. This is the perceived value that each party derives from the negotiation process, which can significantly influence the overall outcome and future relationships.

Subjective value in negotiation is multifaceted, encompassing roughly four distinct types: instrumental, self, process, and relationship. Each of these elements plays a significant role in shaping the negotiation experience and its perceived value.

Instrumental Subjective Value

Instrumental subjective value refers to the perception of the tangible outcomes of the negotiation. It’s not just about the final agreement, but how each party individually perceives the benefits they’ve gained. To enhance this, it’s crucial to understand the other party’s needs and interests. This understanding allows you to craft proposals that not only meet your objectives but also align with the other party’s goals, thereby increasing the perceived value of the outcome. This approach, known as interest-based negotiation, encourages parties to explore underlying needs and desires, leading to creative solutions that can maximize mutual gains. Additionally, employing objective standards and benchmarks can help ensure perceived fairness, further enhancing the instrumental subjective value.

Self Subjective Value

Self subjective value is about the negotiator’s self-perception during and after the negotiation. It involves feelings of competence, pride, and the sense of behaving appropriately. To foster this, avoid dwelling on your victories and instead, acknowledge! the good points made by the other party. This approach not only maintains the other party’s pride but also creates an environment where both parties can express their arguments without fear of immediate contradiction plus it allows the other party to feel competent and respected. Furthermore, adhering to the norms of negotiation and respecting the hierarchical dynamics can help negotiators feel they are behaving appropriately.

Process Subjective Value

Process subjective value pertains to the perceived fairness and efficiency of the negotiation process. Active listening plays a significant role here. By expressing genuine curiosity and attentiveness about the other party’s perspective, you can make them feel heard and valued. Additionally, giving the other party a sense of control over the process can enhance their perception of fairness. Striking a carefully considered balance between not agreeing too early and not quibbling for too long will also help maintain a process that feels neither too easy nor too difficult.

Process subjective value is about the perceived fairness and efficiency of the negotiation process. It’s about feeling heard and treated fairly, and that the process is neither too easy nor too difficult.

Relationship Subjective Value

Finally, relationship subjective value focuses on the impact of the negotiation onto the relationship between the parties. To foster relationship subjective value, negotiators could focus on establishing rapport early on and finding common ground. Expressing genuine curiosity about the other party can help build a positive impression. Moreover, focusing on similarities can foster trust and a good relationship. Lastly, making the negotiation process enjoyable can increase the likelihood of future negotiations.

While these four types of subjective value are distinct, they are also interconnected. A negotiation typically is not just a one-time transaction but a complex process that can shape relationships and future interactions. Therefore, it’s essential to consider all these aspects while trying to strike a balance between them.

Recognizing and fostering subjective value in negotiations will lead to more satisfying outcomes and stronger relationships. It’s not just about the objective gains but also about the perceived value of the process and its impact on the parties involved. By understanding and applying these principles, we transform the Art of Negotiation into a more rewarding, welcomed, and enriching experience plus we achieve the desired outcomes more easily and ensure a satisfying, fair, and relationship-enhancing negotiation process and a valuable contribution to the development of one’s own negotiator personality.

Here’s a recommended reading for those want dive deeper:


In the realm of impact negotiation, a principle that often goes unnoticed, yet holds unsurpassable wisdom, is the Principle of Simplicity. This concept, inspired by Danie Beaulieu’s techniques and Leonardo Da Vinci’s timeless wisdom, asserts that “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” It is the genius of distilling complexity into something tangible and comprehensible.

In today’s fast-paced, information-saturated world, the power of simplicity is increasingly being recognized and celebrated by authors and thought leaders. However, its actual implementation remains a rarity. This is particularly true in the sphere of advanced negotiation and professional settings, where complexity is often mistaken for sophistication, and simplicity is erroneously viewed as unprofessional or simplistic.

In the context of impact negotiation, the Principle of Simplicity is not just about making things easier to understand. It is about achieving the highest form of perfection and the greatest possible well-being for our clients through efficient information acquisition. It is about focusing on the core issue at hand, using time optimally, and encouraging clients to take action.

The application of this principle fundamentally alters the dynamics of communication. It goes beyond the verbal component, incorporating movement, assembly, and feeling. It transforms the traditional mediator-client relationship, fostering a collaborative environment where both parties become observers of- and active participants in the negotiation process.

This shift in perspective, facilitated by the Principle of Simplicity, is instrumental in building a trustworthy relationship. It reduces resistance, encourages open dialogue, and paves the way for innovative solutions to longstanding problems.

So, what value does the Principle of Simplicity bring to a negotiation?

  1. Clarity and Focus: By simplifying complex issues, parties can focus on the core problem, leading to more productive discussions and effective solutions.
  2. Efficient Use of Time: Simplicity allows for optimal use of time, as parties are not bogged down by unnecessary complexities.
  3. Active Participation: Encouraging clients to take action fosters engagement and ownership of the negotiation process, leading to more satisfactory outcomes.
  4. Innovative Solutions: A fresh perspective often leads to novel solutions to old problems. Simplicity encourages this shift in perspective.
  5. Trust and Collaboration: The shared understanding fostered by simplicity builds trust and promotes collaboration, key elements in any successful negotiation.

The “Principle of Simplicity” is not just about making things easier. It’s about enhancing understanding, fostering collaboration, and ultimately, achieving better negotiation outcomes. As we continue to navigate the complexities of the modern world, let us not forget Da Vinci’s wisdom: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Genius is the ability to simplify the complicated”. In impact negotiation, it might just be the key to unlocking success, so.. Keep it simple!