Dutch courage doesn’t improve negotiated outcomes

Published: Mar 07 , 2013
Author: Mark Simpson

Nervous negotiators may often be tempted to partake in a drop of "Dutch Courage" before entering what they anticipate will be difficult negotiations. Our advice is DON'T and it seems the United Nations now agree with us.

Joseph Torsella, the US representative to the United Nations for Management and Reform has recently called for a ban on drunken diplomats at the world bodys budgetary negotiations, lamenting that the already laborious process of getting 193 countries to agree to anything is being further hindered by officials consuming alcohol. Torsella has proposed "...that the negotiating rooms should be in future an inebriation free zone" and suggested that the negotiators "...save the champagne for toasting the successful end of the session". By that we presume he means having reached agreement and done a deal rather than having all got hammered!

Negotiators need all their mental faculties when negotiating. These are clouded by alcohol. Even mildly inebriated people can change in a number of ways. They may become more bullish, assuming or trying to give the impression of being more powerful or they can become even more nervous and paranoid believing others have all the power. Neither is a good basis on which to negotiate. We need to prepare well, ask good questions, listen, make good realistic conditional proposals and be able to repackage and trade creatively using our wish lists. We also need to ensure everyone has the same interpretation and understanding of what's been agreed when we think we've done a deal. 

Don't do this and inevitably you'll be left crying in your beer!

©2013 Mark Simpson, Scotwork NZ


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It never fails… I see smart, intelligent negotiators who have devoted lots of effort to prepare for their negotiation. They know their positions and limits. They’ve crafted a clever strategy. They have contingency plans. They’ve prepare their teams to work together. They know what they can concede and under what conditions they will concede them. But yet they fail to prepare for that one thing that derails all of their preparation…

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