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What to do to be better off

On Thursday the 15th of October, when in-person teaching was still possible, we got the chance to listen to Prof. Dr. iur. Felix Addor, the Deputy Director General and General Counsel of the IPI as well as Head of Legal & International Affairs Division. Professor Addor started us off with a short thought experiment, which I would like to recreate in this blogpost. Stay with me, while reflecting on how you would have reacted in the following situation:

I got a call from the director of the University of Bern, telling me that I would be given the chance to distribute 1000 CHF between all of our blogpost readers, under two conditions: I need to decide how to distribute the money, and all blogpost readers must agree with my decision. Now let’s imagine I want to start to distribute the money to you, plus 29 other people, who read our blogpost, gathered in a group chat.

Close to what happened on said Thursday in our classroom, following situation occurs:


Can anyone guess what happened next? Do you remember the two given conditions? Just like our group chat did not reach an agreement, the money could not be distributed. What can we learn from this situation? With even 1 CHF in our pocket, we would have gained something out of this scenario, we would have been “better off”. However, our human nature, that “sting” that you feel in your heart when you’re not the person receiving the 971 CHF, got in our way.

It is not only a lesson that you could use in the unlikely case that our director actually decides to give out money, as explained in the example above, but it’s a lesson you can benefit from in many more and more likely scenarios.

If you’re at an upcoming thanksgiving dinner party with a huge buffet and everyone else has been given a second serving of the most delicious pumkin pie, everyone but you, what will be your reaction? While that certain “sting” may tell you to express your frustration about the unfairness of the situation, maybe remember next time to take a different path: being thankful for being invited to this dinner and that you got to taste the pie, as with said invitation, you were already “better off” than just staying home.

And when you unwrap the Christmas gift you received from your partner, instead of giving into that “sting”, that your present was more expensive and more thoughtful, be truly grateful for it, as you could just as well have received no gift.

While talking about negotiations, we touched various other fields like literature and religion, showing that negotiations cannot just be packed into a simple textbook. Most importantly, we talked about how preparation is key. Instead of just fact checking, it is important to get to know the person and try to establish a good relationship even before the negotiations start.

If you are now interested to learn more about negotiations from Professor Addor, you have one more chance today, on Thursday the 5th of November, where we will learn more about Integrative Bargaining. And since I mentioned preparation is key, you might want to consider looking at a few comic strips from “Hägar”, created by cartoonists Dik and Chris Browne.




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