Negotiating By Email

Should you negotiate by email?  Scientific American says no, citing a recent study involving 48 MBA students from three universities.  In the study, students were given $89 to divide with another person.  64% of the time, the students lied when writing a letter to the other person; however 92% of the time the students lied when they were sending an email to the other person.  Whether or not you think the study is valuable, think about whether you should negotiate by email.  First, try to negotiate in person, by Skype or by telephone.

But, this is not realistic.  So . . . what do you do if you need to negotiate by email?

1.  Be clear and concise but not terse.  Generally, the recipient will only read a line or two – maybe three if you are lucky.  They will skim.  So, get to the point.  Explain your interests, the options, your other alternatives clearly.  Read the email to see if it is too abrupt or interpreted to be rude.

2.  Be professional.  Open and close the email as you would a letter.  When I receive an email, I notice whether it is terse or professional.  Although I try not to be affected by lower case letters and strange spelling, I feel the informal language indicates the person writing the email does not care about me, the topic or my impressions.  Email messages from phones are different.  If a person responds to me from their phone, the informality is more acceptable to me.

3.  Read the email aloud to yourself.   Pause.  Think.  Read.  We send emails too quickly.  According to Psychology Today, studies have shown that nearly half of the time, recipients were NOT able to correctly interpret the tone and tenor of the email. Humor can be misinterpreted, mild displeasure can be read as a tirade, and serious comments can seem sarcastic.  We all have difficulty hearing our voice or email as anything other than what we intend.  Some people can effectively use dashes, dots, spaces — to indicate pauses.

As with all negotiations, pay attention.  Be professional.  Be clear about your priorities, and negotiating by email will serve you well.

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About kshobbs

Karin has mediated over 3,600 disputes in her 14 years as a full on professional mediator.
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