Symbolic breaks can smooth stuttering meetings

Executives should use symbolic breaks to help bring new context to a meeting that is not progressing as planned, it has been claimed.

Writing for Harvard Business Review, Athens University of Economics and Business adjunct professor Charalambos Vlachoutsicos pointed out that negotiations can often stall, which is when people should use physical actions to achieve a shift in tone.

So when individuals are in meeting venues trying to decide terms, they should not give up when the conversation reaches an “impasse”, instead they should try altering the circumstances, according to Mr Vlachoutsicos.

He said: “So if you’re stuck in a negotiation and nothing you can say seems to make a difference, try to change the frame in the way I’ve just described. Change your position – or even the room you’ve been talking in. Tear up the document and bring out a blank piece of paper. Anything to symbolise a break with what’s gone before.”

It is not easy to negotiate with powerful board members, but it can be “exciting” to see such conversations play out, Business Insider expert Brendan Sheehan noted.

The strategy involved can become “fun” to appreciate once people stop seeing such negotiations as arguments, he said. It becomes a case of spotting sophisticated techniques and contrasting styles.