Notice! When e-mail is best for negotiation
Meeting face-to-face, whether in person or via video, may seem like the gold standard for negotiation, but negotiating via e-mail can offer the following three advantages:
Watch out! Research shows there is a greater tendency to lie or exaggerate with email.
- Convenience. You can type an e-mail at any time of day or night. By comparison, a videoconference may be difficult to set up between parties who are located in very different time zones.
- Greater precision. When you fear tripping up and saying the wrong thing, you may prefer to take the time to carefully craft an e-mail message (or a letter, for that matter). This may be especially important when legal issues are at stake.
- More equal opportunities. When people with differing levels of power negotiate, as in the case of a boss and subordinate, e-mail may minimize their awareness of a power imbalance and promote more equitable outcomes.
There is also more bluffing and intimidating threats. Hardball negotiators feel more powerful behind the screen, and less concerned about their counterpart’s reaction.
Negotiators don’t feel the pressure of “live performance” and thus there tends to be less preparation, especially in reacting to offers. Obviously, it is more difficult to build rapport and trust, but as a result, there is less focus on interests and more on positions and demands. Communication challenges arise easily, including rudeness, ambiguous messages, and ill-conceived reactions. It is easier to say “No”, and brainstorming is not comfortable, thus cramping creativity and the likelihood of value creation. Improve! You can get better with e-mail negotiating by following these guidelines:
- Meet upfront
- Continue to build rapport
- Have a well-established goal
- Brainstorm offline
- Stamp out conflict
- Ask more questions, not less
- Keep the climate positive
- Sprinkle in the personal touch
Make sure e-mail negotiations are part of your strategic negotiation-toolbox!
Source: Watershed Associates