Brexit: 5 tips for negotiators

Keep these five key points in mind and you’ll be able to handle any negotiation with confidence

Some negotiations have weightier repercussions than others. Whatever your challenge, here's how to have the best chance of success

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With the UK and the EU on tenterhooks to see what exactly will come out of the Brexit negotiations, both parties are relying on top negotiators to strike the best deals possible. We invited three London Business School experts to give their tips for negotiating successful outcomes – principles that apply in business as much as in politics.


1. Always go in fully prepared

Think through the detail of every issue you need to negotiate in advance of your meeting so there’s no danger you’ll be caught off guard by an unforeseen element. Information is power, according to Madan Pillutla, Deputy Dean, Faculty and Gillian Ku, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour, who co-lead the Executive Education programme Negotiating and Influencing Skills for Senior Managers.


2. Know who you’re dealing with

It’s worth taking the time to study the personalities, career histories and negotiating styles of the other parties in the room, says Ena Inesi, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour. The more you know about the person you’re negotiating with, the smoother your negotiations are likely to be.


3. Make an effort to understand where the other party is coming from

Getting to grips with other people’s motivations, rather than getting hung up on who’s right or what’s fair, will put you in a position where you’re more likely to reach an agreement. Instead of seeing the negotiations as a “power grab”, consider what you can accede to that’s in your interests just as much as the other party’s. Always look for common ground, says Dr Inesi. Frame your requests in a way that emphasises advantages to both parties. Instead of thinking about how to get your share of the pie, think about how you can grow it.


4. Don’t lose your cool

We’re all human but high-level negotiations require you to have the self-discipline to resist reacting to every provocation. Learn when to push and when to pause in your negotiations. Pushing relentlessly to advance your cause can damage the relationship, says Dr Ku – and once you’ve lost trust, you’re in a weaker position. Sometimes it pays to hold back and give the other party a chance to come through with a solution that will work for you both.


5. Don’t take too rigid a stance

This can happen when you feel under threat. Are there any issues on which you can compromise without losing sight of your main objectives? Accept that some change is going to be inevitable, whatever the outcome of your negotiations. Uncertainty can be debilitating, but only if you view it as the problem, advises Dr Inesi. And don’t restrict your discussion to one point at a time. Working through issues one by one is tempting but it can be much more productive to discuss several matters together – as long as you don’t lose sight of your key priorities.  

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