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Happy New Year?

Stephen White
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It is a new year and a new decade. How does that make you feel – optimistic or apprehensive? Knowing this is important, because your answer may be a guide to your negotiating style.

I have an old friend who is in retail. For many years we were always together on New Year’s Eve with a crowd of mates, and every year, no matter how good the party, she was depressed. For her the new year meant starting again at zero with everything to find in order to meet her sales budget. And she would have had just cause last year, according to the figures published today by the British Retail Consortium, which show that sales have been very slow for most retailers over the last few months. Over time I also got to realise that she was a negotiator who was never satisfied. Her customers were always difficult, her negotiations were tough, her deals could always have been better. In summary, I suppose she was a glass half empty person.

We saw an example of this yesterday. Boris Johnson had a meeting Wednesday with the newly appointed President of the EU Ursula von der Leyen. I expect Ms von der Leyen is a bit like my friend – not keen on New Year because looking forward every day is an opportunity for another problem. Not surprising then that she made a speech warning the UK that a trade deal by December 31st is IMPOSSIBLE. Boris is the kind of person who likes the challenge of a new year – every day is an opportunity for a new opportunity! - responded that there would be no extension because it was unnecessary – a deal could be done by the end of this year.

Identifying personality types can be helpful in negotiating preparation. Of course, part of that preparation is knowing your own tendencies, but you should also try to find out the nature of your counterparty; perhaps by taking the opportunity that a new year brings to ask the same question I posed in the first paragraph of this blog. If they are new year enthusiasts then a positive and constructive negotiation should follow but look out for the syndrome of over-ambition – a belief that anything is possible which leads to unrealistic expectations. If they are new year haters then expect a negotiation full of angst and self-recrimination, which you can temper by making proposal after proposal until they reluctantly say Yes.

We wish our community of Scotwork negotiators good negotiating, good deal-making and a Happy New Year.

Stephen White
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