I look at Brexit from both sides now!

Published: Oct 27 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith


What do Joni Mitchell and Boris Johnston have in common? Well very little I suspect, but they do both share an interesting way of looking at issues before finally making up their minds.

“Both Sides Now” is one of Joni Mitchell's most famous songs and appeared on her 1969 Album, Clouds. She says that she has investigated life, love and clouds from both sides, the inspiration being that she was on a transatlantic flight and looked down on the clouds rather than the more customary up.

Boris Johnson was quoted in the press this weekend of having a similar way of making up his mind when considering his view of whether to support Britain’s In or Out vote over the now decided Brexit.

Apparently Boris sat down and wrote two versions of a potential article to appear in his weekly Daily Telegraph column. The first was entitled, “My case for Britain to stay in Europe”, the second was imaginatively “My case for Britain to leave Europe”. He used this analysis to help make up his mind, and to solve the mind wrestle that he had found himself in for considerably more than a year.

As we all know the latter was the one that was published.

This process echoed the one taken by Charles Darwin, when he found himself in a quandary as to whether he should marry. He apparently wrote Marry: Children, companionship, charms of female relationship. Not Marry: freedom to go where one liked, not forced to visit relatives. Darwin choose to marry and lived happily with Emma Wedgewood for many years.

As a method of making decisions it is indeed helpful to try to look at issues from all sides before making an eventual choice. Indeed, as a negotiator we should also spend quality thinking time in our preparation thinking of the alternatives to a deal. All negotiators should always spend quality thinking time in preparation trying to calculate the effects of all possible decisions.

I think it is also critical to spend some time swapping sides and thinking of how the person across the table will see any potential issues, values and variables. What are their options and needs, how will they view success?

There are occasions though when no matter how hard we look, or from which side we do so, we simply have to plum for a choice, to quote Mitchel;

I've looked at love from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all

Substitute Brexit for the word love, and I suspect we are all still a little in the dark.

Alan Smith


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Alan Smith

About the author:

Alan Smith
My background is marketing and advertising. After graduating in Economics I entered the agency world to become, at 28, MD of London's largest independent below-the-line marketing provider.

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It’s amazing how many people go into negotiations with no clear idea about their bottom line. “We’ll see how it goes,” seems to be the rather naïve thought and of course they leave themselves open to the risk of a really poor and unprofitable deal at the end of it. It is empowering to know your bottom line, especially when you have internal agreement at senior level. Think about it: the other side are aggressively demanding that you improve your terms, but you know that what they are asking for is beyond your bottom line.

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