Negotiation skills: What law firms can learn from Brexit deadlock

Negotiation skills: What law firms can learn from Brexit deadlock

At times, no matter how well you plan, negotiations can get to a point where progress appears to be impossible. Sound familiar? As Brexit deadlock continues, Jack Downton, Managing Director of The Influence Business, reflects on the UK’s current divorce from the EU to highlight some of the fundamental negotiation tips law firms can apply to break deadlock and reach agreement.  

Align your team’s interests. One of the core issues surrounding Brexit is that there is no parliamentary majority for any solution. It’s not surprising that teams often wrestle with internal conflicts, but by ignoring or failing to resolve differences of tactics, targets, trade-offs etc., you risk ending up with an agreement that’s good for one part of the firm but bad for another.

Establish what is negotiable. There is no point in endlessly trying to reach agreement on something which is non-negotiable for the other party. This will only cause delays and resentment. Instead, know how far you are prepared to go before walking away.

Find common ground. When our tempers rise it is inevitable that communication will begin to break down. To restart the discussion on the right foot and avoid a negative atmosphere, re-establish a common ground.  In May’s case, she often speaks of shared goals, history and mutual values.

Don’t just focus on the best outcome for you. Find out the ‘why’ behind their interests. Ask questions that help identify where the other party is coming from to help find alternative ways of meeting everyone’s needs. It is not always easy, but often the simple act of empathising with the other party can help you identify possible solutions.

Don’t rush to reach closure. Whilst it may be frustrating, taking a break can often be the most powerful way to get back on track with negotiations. The ways to resolve deadlock can decrease the longer that you’ve been negotiating.

Rehearse challenging conversations. To head off surprises at the table and resist the temptation to strike back, use role-play to highlight aspects of the negotiations that you expect to be contentious. This will help your team prepare for emotional responses, predict where team discipline might break down, and clarify who has authority to make concessions and decisions. We regularly use actors during our programmes to allow you to practice conversations in a realistic though commercially safe environment. To find out more about our practical and interactive negotiation programmes, click here.

Whatever happens on Brexit, a deal will have to be struck and, in the aftermath, a whole host of lessons will be drawn.  Doubtless, we will all learn and hopefully be able to apply the lessons to our own business negotiations.

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