Ayesha Vardag spoke to The Guardian alongside a number of negotiation experts. Joined by former hostage negotiator Christopher Voss as well as retail gurus and childcare professionals, Ayesha shared her tips for getting the best out of negotiations.
Speaking of the background which moulded her into a tough negotiator, she said “I would always be the one in the group to sort out difficult situations, either by being stroppy and making a fuss, or by brokering a deal. As a student at Cambridge, I successfully took up the cause to get mixed bedsit sharing for students at Queens’ College.” She added “My father was from a Pashtun family, and he had a political and legal career in Pakistan. Being mixed race gives you a degree of detachment and an awareness that there are very different ways of doing things, and that you have to accommodate all of them to get a good result.”
Discussing the propensity for people in family law disputes to become emotive over certain issues, she remarked “I’ve had people fight over furniture, coffee machines, even ski suits. Those items become sticking points, because they are in some way emotive. I advise them to forget about the small stuff and just focus on getting what they want.”
She went on to advise clients to take a firm line in setting a limit, saying “If you’re playing chicken, with two cars driving at each other, the only way you can make absolutely sure you’ll win is to visibly throw your steering wheel out of the window.” Though emotions can be derail negotiations, in Ayesha’s experience emotion can prove a potent tool in extracting the best deal. She told the paper that “Using all your assets, including emotional assets, is fair game in this situation.”
Ayesha went on the remind negotiators to stay calm, and to avoid getting bogged down in minutiae, saying “Let them have all the box sets or vintage china: focus on the big picture.”