News And Views


30.03.17

How NOT To Negotiate Brexit

Yesterday marked the historic moment when Theresa May triggered Article 50 beginning the two year countdown until the UK leaves the EU. In what promises to be one of the most complicated political negotiations of all time, Theresa May will need to draw on all of her emotional intelligence (EQ) to negotiate with the 27 EU member states to secure the best possible outcome for the UK.

 

So based on more than 25 years commercial experience including 12 years developing and delivering negotiation training programmes throughout the world, I wanted to share my expert advice with Mrs May on what not to do in the Brexit negotiations.

 

4 Things You Should Never Do When Negotiating:

 

1. Start Negotiating Before You’ve Finished Selling

In my experience, people often confuse negotiation with selling and consequently start negotiating too early. In the case of Brexit, it’s crucial for Theresa May to influence the EU’s decision by selling them the benefits of a relationship with the UK before negotiating the deal. It is only once the UK has set out its stall, that both sides can start negotiating in order to reach closure. May will need to draw on her EQ to have the self-awareness to recognise the pivotal moment when she needs to stop selling and flip into a negotiating mindset.

 

2. Let Your Emotions Cloud Your Judgement

Theresa May will have to exercise her self-control to ensure she remains cool, calm and collected in what is clearly an emotionally charged situation. Given the high profile nature of the Brexit negotiations and the fact they will be played out on the world stage, it’s critical that May recognises her own emotions and those of the other parties, in order to manage the negotiation conversation. For example, May will need to curb any sign of hubris and recognise that appearing arrogant will undermine the likelihood of achieving a mutually beneficial outcome. Similarly, the 27 member states will need to control their desire to “punish” the UK for leaving the EU by understanding that this could de-rail the negotiations in the long run.

 

3. Try To Have Your Cake And Eat It

Skilled negotiators understand that being able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes is key to securing a successful negotiation outcome. I define negotiation as, “Communication between two parties to find overlapping positions” which clearly shows that negotiation is, by its very nature, a two-way conversation that enables you to find common ground. Theresa May therefore needs to use her empathy to understand and respond to the EU’s points of view. This is not about securing a one off win-lose negotiation, it’s about trading effectively and if necessary offering concessions in order to enable both parties to leave the negotiating table feeling like they are winners. By following a win-win approach you are more likely to build a relationship based on trust and respect over the long term.

 

4. Give Up At The First Stumbling Block

The Brexit negotiations will undoubtedly be complicated and protracted; a negotiation marathon not a sprint. So it’s important that Theresa May draws on her resilience to help her to stay the course and overcome any hurdles she will encounter along the way. Emotionally resilient people are able to take the learnings from the situation and move forward. In the case of Theresa May, this could be breaking deadlock by knowing when to call time out in order to prepare new variables to bring to the Brexit table. The secret to mastering the art of negotiation is to be positive and solution-orientated. May will, therefore, need to adopt a winning mindset by flipping any negatives into positives and believing in her own ability to secure a successful outcome.

 

My final piece of advice to Theresa May is to remember that it takes ambition, commitment and hard work to hone your EQ so you can become a world-class negotiator. I always remind my clients that these so-called “soft” skills are often the most difficult to master. Ultimately it will be May’s ability to harness her self-awareness, self–control, empathy and resilience that will be crucial to securing a favourable outcome for the UK going forward.

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