Why you should negotiate face-to-face

Posted by on July 30, 2008 in Negotiations

Of all the negotiations tactics, do you know what I think is the worst? Negotiating by email. Let me count the ways. Email messages lack tone and context and what the writer believes is a polite but stern negotiating position suddenly becomes overly harsh and rude to the reader and the negotiations get off the rails because people are offended (if you email your spouse  at work about something pedistrian and it degenerates into you being “mean” in your emails, you know what I mean). Two-there’s the plain practicality that people get avalanches of email a day and they miss responding to an email on an important point and answer the less important ones (it always seems to happen that way) so now the parties have a communication gap. Three- have you sent an email with 4 questions and you only get back answers to 2? Now you wonder if they deliberately avoided answering the other two or if it was just an oversight because the email was long and their attention span couldn’t handle all those questions. Do you call them out on it and appear rude? Four- emails encourage general rambling (that’s what blogs are for!) rather than specific answers. Thus there’s a lot of emails going back and forth without getting anywhere.

Last one- a lot of us get emails on blackberrys and hand-held devices which promotes two types of response: (i) fire and forget- let me just shoot off any old response to get this off my inbox; or (ii) short, non-specific responses to long questions-  what exactly did you say yes to? Both are very problematic since you may have agreed to something you do not because you were firing off short answers.

Emails are great for getting information but, once you dig below the information and try to engage in a point and counter-point discussion which typically characterizes many negotiations, the medium of communication hinders the process rather than helps.

Don’t negotiate by email. Do it face to face. Body language gives you a much better read on feelings, positions and stances than an email would. Face to face negotiations traps the parties in a time and space where they HAVE to think about the issues in dispute at hand without all the distractions of emails. This allows you to bear down and really figure out what the parties want from one another (in business and in life).  I have been part of negotiations where nothing happened after 50 emails on a topic (I am sadly not exaggerating as I think of these negotiations) because everyone was on a blackberry and just firing off 10 words answers and the lawyers were pulling their hair out trying to figure out what the parties really meant. After a 1 hour meeting, everyone was on the same page. Think about how much the lawyers charged reading that stream of emails (so there is a cost by negotiating through email).

Yes, people don’t like meeting face to face because it is easier to say no by email than face to face (with Facebook, you can actually break up with someone without even an email, just change your status for the world to see…does Generation Y even go on dates or is all done by text-messaging and instant messaging?). But the hard things in life are the one’s worth doing.

If you would like more negotiating tips, I previously wrote a post on effective negotiating tactics. Good luck.

2 Comments on Why you should negotiate face-to-face

By Book Winner, Another $25 Gift Card Giveaway, and Weekend Reading - August 1, 2008 | Million Dollar Journey on August 1, 2008 at 5:30 am

[...] Thicken My Wallet has another great article that teaches Why you should negotiate face-to-face. [...]

By Riscario Insider on August 2, 2008 at 11:14 pm

What if you have the option of meeting in person? In those situations, the phone works as a reasonable substitute (ideally on a landline from a quiet location).

When it comes to email, why don’t people learn to use it better? Partial responses or responses to only some points are rampant. When there are responses at all. We’re so connected by technology but we don’t connect with our messages.

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