How to Treat a Loved One

Published: Dec 16 , 2011
Author: Stephen White

As the invective from senior French politicians as a result of the UK's negotiating position at the European summit last week becomes harsher, we should maybe ponder the wisdom that long term relationships benefit from Win-Win negotiating style.

The French certainly have taken a very aggressive attitude, now suggesting that the UK's economic position is worse than theirs, so it is the Brits who should be considered for a credit-rating downgrade. This in contrast with Germany, which has, as convention dictates, made soothing noises about the EU maintaining close ties with Great Britain. Do we put the French attitude down to the historic Gallic irritation with 'Les Ros-bifs'.

I detect something else. The deal done last week is coming under increasing pressure from the financial markets because it was unfocussed and vague on numbers. If it fails to do the trick, there will have to be another Summit - they are already talking about one taking place in January - and that the UK will be invited to participate. The French are simply looking for someone to blame.

So how much damage did David Cameron do by saying 'No' last week?  Not much, I think, because the nature of a long term relationship is that you can say No without termination. We all know that from our domestic situations, with spouses and children (and sometimes with parents as well). Disagreement doesn't mean divorce, or being put up for adoption.

But we don't see this understanding transferring to our commercial negotiations with clients, especially long-standing ones. In these situations we can't see past 'the relationship'. Saying No might destroy the relationship, so appeasement, dissembling, and postponement appear to be better.

How wrong. Partners like robustness and honesty in their dealings with each other. Disagreement by others with my viewpoint makes me reconsider, and re-examine my facts and my opinions. I might or might not change my mind; indeed I might take a more entrenched position, but I'm better for the internal review and anyway unlikely to terminate the relationship altogether. Good client-facing people know that pushback, always tactfully, on demands which are unreasonable or inappropriate, is seen by clients as positive behaviour and respected.

However, remember that disagreement in a long term relationship can have unexpected consequences. There is an old joke about a wife who rings her mother. 'We had a big bust-up.' she says 'I asked him to iron his own shirts and he said No. So I'm moving out and coming to live with you.' 'On the contrary' says the mother. 'He must be made to suffer. I'm coming to live with you.'

Anyone fancy M. Sarkozy joining Cameron and Clegg in the coalition?

Stephen White


Stephen White.jpg

About the author:

Stephen White
My background is sales and marketing. I read Law at University and worked for 2 major packaging companies for 13 years in sales and sales management. I joined John McMillan and Scotwork in 1984. For the next 25 years together with our colleagues we delivered training and consulting, built the global business and developed the Scotwork product portfolio.

Read more about Stephen White

More posts by Stephen White

Latest Blog:


“When it comes to the qualifications we demand of our president, to start with, we need someone who will take the job seriously.” Michelle Obama. Don’t stop reading - this blog is not about Donald Trump. In the run up to the election of a new Labour Party Leader 4 years ago, the four candidates were invited by LBC radio to quiz each other. You can see the questions to Jeremy Corbyn here. There are two points of note. Firstly, when asked if he wants to be Prime Minister he ducks the question several times, instead referring to the ideological changes he wants to make within the Labour Party. Secondly when asked about his qualifications and experience to be leader of a major political party his answer is objectively underwhelming – before being an MP, he says, he had been a local councillor for 10 years. I don’t think it is difficult to relate those answers in 2015 to the current divided state of the Labour Party.

Latest Tweet:

Scotwork UK Limited
7 Fortrose St
G11 5NU
United Kingdom
+44 (0) 1413573989
Follow us
Scotwork 21092 - Training Course.png
award 2.jpg
award 1.jpg