Post-Brexit Negotiations Could Hit Problems Due to Interpretation of Key Phrases, Research Finds

Post-Brexit Negotiations Could Hit Problems Due to Interpretation of Key Phrases, Research Finds

Leading management consultant, Michael Coates has discovered that negotiations for post-Brexit deals could be derailed by how other nationals interpret common British phrases. As EU negotiations continue, effective communication is key to securing trade agreements but the latest study has indicated frequently used business phrases in Britain are regularly misunderstood by non-British nationals, leading to potential complications.

Presenting his findings at the May 2017 Global Advances in Business Communication conference, held in Antwerp, Belgium, Michael has highlighted how negotiators that know the British well could be crucial. Quizzing over 400 people from a wide range of countries, the study indicated that non-British nationals often have trouble interpreting phrases such as ‘with all due respect’ , ‘that is an original point of view’ and ‘I was a bit disappointed’. In fact, in most cases they interpreted each business phrase differently to British study participants.

When given an option to state terms they found difficult to understand when said by a British person, idioms, including ‘start from square one’ and ‘let’s get this ball rolling’, were also highlighted. However, those that had been exposed to British culture were significantly better able to grasp the true intent of such phrases.

Michael Coates, Managing Director of Protostar Leadership Development, said, “The complications of the way business phrases are interpreted are stark for Brexit negotiations. Unless key negotiators have considerable experience living and working in the UK it’s likely that some miscommunication will arise. It not only means that deals could take longer to finalise but it could potentially harm relationships too. It’s an issue that both sides will need to keep in mind throughout the Brexit process.”

Both the EU’s lead negotiator and his deputy appear to have had considerable exposure to the British culture. However, it has been suggested that the vast EU negotiating team may avoid using people who have worked with the British government in order to avoid a conflict of interest. Michael’s findings, on the other hand, suggest that the team

needs to include people who understand common British phrases in order to ensure that a successful conclusion is reached.

As Managing Director of a top leadership development firm, Michael is no stranger to tackling business related issues. Working with a vast range of

businesses, Protostar Leadership Development help managers achieve their full potential and engage with employees.

To download a copy of Michael Coates’ paper visit