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Sustainable Negotiation

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Sustainable Negotiation

What Physics Can Teach Us About International Negotiation

Emerald Publishing Limited,

15 min read
8 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

International negotiation and quantum physics share surprising commonalities.

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International negotiation expert Eliane Karsaklian makes a strong case for the similarities between quantum physics and negotiation. She draws parallels between the shifts in perspective that quantum physics demands and the shifts in perspective that the cultural differences of international negotiation require. For an overview that applies one complex subject to another, this manual is remarkably easy to read. Karsaklian moves easily between examples drawn from physics on the one hand and negotiation principles and practices on the other. She provides end-chapter summaries and exercises that readers can carry out to apply her concepts.


Quantum physics can provide useful insights into the art of negotiation, especially international negotiation.

Quantum physics and international negotiation have a lot in common. Concepts from physics can help people understand international negotiation. To negotiate successfully, people must shift how they see the world. This requires leaving older models behind and creating a “more sustainable approach.”

Steven Weinberg, Nobel Prize winner in physics, said nature looks more complicated than it is. The same is true of international negotiation. People approach negotiation in unnecessarily complicated ways. They see the differences between positions, not the “symmetries.”

Scientists can’t know everything about subatomic particles and so must work with probabilities. Negotiators can’t know all there is to know about people and must determine what is likely taking place. Quantum mechanics teaches that “reality is truly unknowable.” Because the West sees the world as a single objective reality, that sounds daunting. But reality differs according to who looks at it and from what angle.

In international negotiation, more than one “cultural...

About the Author

Eliane Karsaklian is director of a trilingual master program in International Negotiation at Sorbonne University. She also founded Ubi & Orbi, which consults with companies about their international activities.

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