The Germans have very low tolerance for conflict resolutions which declare clear winners and losers. Do Germans do their best to avoid open confrontation because the one or the other side wants to avoid being the loser, or because their sense of humility forbids them from being the declared winner?

A look into recent history might help us to understand why Germans avoid zero-sum mentality, preferring instead win-win situations.

The so-called German-French Erbfeindschaft – loosely translated as traditional or hereditary enmity or hostility – was a term used to define the wars between the two peoples going back to King Louis the XIV up until and including the Second World War. 

The Germans won the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. The annexation of Elsass-Lothringen by Germany led to French desire for revenge.

The French are then on the winning side of the First World War. The Treaty of Versailles punishes Germany very harshly, making a lasting peace almost impossible. The Germans see it as political and military humiliation, which the National Socialists use to their advantage in the 1930s.

Then the Second World War. The Germans defeat and occupy France. But the Germans lose that war. But this time both sides have learned their lesson. They decide to integrate economically in order to end once and for all the so-called Erbfeindschaft. They choose cooperation over confrontation.

The Germans believe that a conflict is not resolved when one side loses and the other wins. A conflict is resolved when both sides accept the resolution.