How to cooperate successfully in negotiations

3 minute read

A turtle called Rosa Luxemburg

In my still relatively new role as founder of a consultancy, I had chosen the Oxford Programme on Negotiation for my personal development. I negotiate every day with many different people in different contexts. Sometimes the outcome is satisfactory for me, but sometimes it is not. I wanted to change that.

In June 2023, the time had come - back to university, at least for a week. I came across a group of interesting, open and charming personalities: 21 nationalities, with exciting backgrounds and interested in a shared learning experience.

We started with a walk through Oxford. My highlight: the tortoise race, a turtle race held every year between rival colleges. In 2003, Balliol College's favourite, the turtle Rosa Luxemburg, mysteriously disappeared before the race. Had she lost the desire to compete at the age of 43, or was she even stolen?

The old town of Oxford is beautiful and the backdrop of the Oxford is reminiscent of the Harry Potter films, as well as one or two James Bond films which were also shot there.

The right tools and one's own negotiating style

After a first dinner together on Sunday, we started on Monday morning with the first 'technical' elements of negotiations. With different frameworks, we learned to improve our preparation and to better analyse the stakeholders.

A highlight for me was the analysis of my own negotiation style and the resulting realisation that my style is not suitable for every negotiation situation or every negotiation partner. This was an opportunity to learn new things and to give more space to previously neglected aspects.

Also, the fact that you can find a better solution for both parties by 'cooperating' and sharing relevant information was brought to us through practical examples. As I work a lot with international companies, the diverse context of the group with the different personal and cultural negotiation styles was very enriching.

Learning from and with peers - group dynamics at its best

As a trainer and coach, I am always thrilled to be part of a learning group myself and to be able to enjoy the group dynamics as a participant. In our case, the bonding continued on the second evening with a joint visit to a tapas bar and culminated in a pizza party on the rooftop of our hotel, along with a joint dinner at Balliol College. We had a great time talking about our negotiations and our lives. Those were really great moments with great people and we are still in touch with each other today.

The learning experience

In addition to the excellent faculty, several outstanding external guests contributed to the multi-layered and intensive learning experience with their perspectives and anecdotes. I particularly remember Baroness Catherine Ashton, who negotiated for the United Kingdom in the Iran conflict and shared many insights from her negotiation practice with us.

The safe space we all created during this week allowed me to observe myself and try out new things. This allowed me to discover my own framework of action and possibilities. And that is exactly what is needed to become aware of one's own behaviour, one's own hurdles and challenges and then to directly influence them positively.

Thanks to the many experiences gained in the various simulations, it was easy for me to transfer them to my everyday life, and I have already been able to successfully apply the new knowledge in negotiations. Today, I not only have a clearer approach to preparation at hand, but I also know what state of mind I need to negotiate well.

Oxford Programme on Negotiation