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Merkel wields 'die bittere Wahrheit'

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Germany’s new chancellor, Angela Merkel, already is showing skill as a conciliator in piecing together her coalition government from an array of bitter rivals.

A big part of that skill rests on her mastery of communication: Merkel doesn’t seek attention, but when she’s got it, she speaks the bitter truth—die bittere Wahrheit, in German—without being abrasive.

Example: Recently, she told a magazine that the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay “should not exist … on a permanent basis. Different ways of dealing with the prisoners must be found.”

If her predecessor—Gerhard Schroeder, a frequent critic of U.S. policy—had said that, White House officials would have popped a few veins. But because Merkel has clearly embraced America, her point was taken.

Lesson: Never mince words. As long as your intentions are goodhearted, people appreciate candor.

—Adapted from “Merkel will play a pragmatic hand in America,” Quentin Peel, Financial Times.

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