Brexit and the Zen Art of Negotiation

You would be forgiven for thinking the headline ‘Brexit and the Zen Art of Negotiation’ might be the full extent of the government’s actual strategy for negotiating with the E.U. So far, all we know is Brexit means Brexit and of course since Brexit isn’t actually a word, it might well mean nothing at all. One thing’s for certain though, unless the government is already holding five aces, if you want to learn ‘how to NOT negotiate’ most politicians are putting on a pretty awesome show.

So, what can we actually learn from our learned politicians as they argue strategy for negotiation with the E.U.?

Aim High!

Well they at least have the opening right. When negotiating it’s always good to aim high. Currently the UK’s opening bid suggests we want ‘the Moon on a stick…’ and we are prepared to offer mainland Europe a punch in the face in return.

Know Your Goals

Unfortunately, this is where things start to go awry. The second tenet of a strong negotiation is understanding what you want to achieve and sadly our politicians don’t seem to have the foggiest what this is… except maybe to stay as we are, but without so many foreigners.

Know thy Enemy

They also fare rather poorly on the third step of a strong negotiation which is understanding your audience. There’s nothing visible from the UK stance on Brexit which suggests any politician has taken much notice at all of who we are negotiating with.

Listen Up

Strong negotiating requires active listening. If you are able to understand what the other party wants then the chances of negotiating successfully are much improved. Sadly, our right honourable politicians do not have a very good track record of listening to… well anyone.

Know Your Worth

We probably have a good sense of national worth and indeed this may have been one of the leading arguments for leaving the E.U. in the first place, but it’s always worth remembering not to put too high a price on yourself.

Keep it professional

We’re not looking great on this front. Bullying politicians (you know who you are!) have already spouted off at too many countries to count and others in power seem to relish a confrontational stance. In the real world, bullying, bragging and any and all forms of chicanery have no place round the negotiating table.

End with a smile

I sincerely hope that when, and if, we do leave the E.U., we do so cordially. If either party leaves the negotiations feeling cheated, it’s bad news for everyone. If your partner feels like they’ve been cheated the word will be out and it can affect all your future negotiations.

  • Alan Potts
  • Dec 13, 2016
  • Business, Executive Coaching, Leadership

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