If you don’t know what you want then it is difficult to achieve a result in a negotiation.
That’s the message from Patricia Barclay who runs award-winning Edinburgh-based legal firm Bonaccord.
Patricia, who has held senior posts around the world with multi-national life science/chemical companies, told Midlothian and East Lothian Chamber of Commerce that businessmen and women must establish detailed and specific goals before starting any negotiation.
Differing priorities and understanding can be a cause of impasse, she told her audience at a breakfast meeting in The Mercat, Whitecraigs, near Musselburgh: “You may have to look again at your goals and work out if you are missing the wood for the trees.”
It is important, she said, to understand the other party’s priorities and to review your assumptions where the other party is taking a very different position.
Ms Barclay, who was the first Scottish solicitor to be awarded a Fellowship from The American Bar Association, added: “A change of environment, change of subject or change of the people can overcome impasse but throughout it is important to build trust.
“Be courteous and professional, make a small, early concession and be consistent in purpose but flexible as to approach.
“Explain the rationale for proposals, listen to the other party and respond fairly.”
Ms Barclay, who is listed in the International Who’s Who of Commercial Mediation, said it was important not to interrogate the other party but to seek information through open questions while maintaining positive body language.
She added: “Acknowledging that you understand people and are following their argument is important but this does not mean nodding mindlessly instead ask questions to clarify or restate their point to confirm understanding but avoid talking over someone”
“If impasse strikes then she suggested taking a break before trying any of the various techniques she proposed to break the deadlock.
“If in spite of everything deadlock comes, end the meeting positively and in a friendly manner.
“You never know when you may meet the same people again.”