Using adjournments in negotiations

When we are negotiating, it can be all too easy for us to take things personally. The other party objects. Someone questions the fee / price / money. We are unfavourably compared with a competitor. To borrow the words of Big Chris (a.k.a. Vinnie Jones) in ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’, it can get ‘emotional’. Yet the emotions that can emerge when the going seems to get tough are those that really won’t help us. Time to use an adjournment.

If you think the temperature’s getting a little heated – and that could be you or the other party, or indeed both parties – an adjournment can defuse matters. But there are ways to do it – and not to do it. Here are some DOs and DON’Ts:


  1. Recap on what’s been agreed thus far before adjourning, and check the other party’s understanding matches yours.
  2. Mind your language. So calmly say, “I think it would be a good time for a quick break to think over the points so far”, rather than get in a huff.
  3. Mind your body language – it will give you away if you’re not very careful. So watch your posture, hold steady eye contact and keep gestures open.
  4. Be honest if some new information has come to light that affects the negotiation. You will need time to discuss this with stakeholders and come up with new options.
  5. Call an adjournment if one of your colleagues is jeopardising proceedings in some way, such as being aggressive, or giving in the whole time.


  1. Turn up unprepared so you have to use up valuable time adjourning to get the info you should have had at your fingertips.
  2. Forget that negotiation is an accepted and effective tool, not just in business but in all aspects of our lives.
  3. Slam your fist (or pen, cup, etc.) down and say, “We’re clearly not getting anywhere, so I think it’s time for a break”.
  4. Sigh loudly, adopt aggressive body language, raise your voice and exhibit other unhelpful behaviours that communicate your exasperation (even if that’s how you feel).
  5. Use adjournments to duck tricky issues – they will have to be discussed eventually.

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