Negotiation research suggests that e-mail often poses more problems than solutions when it comes to relationships, information exchange, and outcomes. Here is a conflict management case study about the challenges of building rapport with your counterpart when negotiating online.
First, establishing social rapport via e-mail can be challenging. The lack of nonverbal cues and the dearth of social norms regarding its use can cause negotiators to be impolite and to show little concern for their counterparts.
E-mail negotiations are also fraught with misunderstanding, both because emotion and tone are difficult to convey accurately and because parties neglect to consider the other side’s perspective. Notably, e-mail communicators are largely unaware of these limitations.
In one negotiation study by Justin Kruger of New York University, Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago, and Justin Parker and Zhi-Wen Ng of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, individuals were asked to communicate a series of statements with sarcasm, seriousness, anger, or sadness to either a friend or a stranger via e-mail, over the phone, or face-to-face.
Individuals generally overestimated how accurately their recipients would decode their tone, regardless of whether the other person was a friend or a stranger, but this deficiency was particularly strong with e-mail.
As a result, e-mail often decreases information exchange, thereby leading to impasse and inefficient agreements compared with negotiations conducted in person. Conflict management is on the rise, and digital communications may be to blame.
Have you ever had to use your conflict management skills to manage an online negotiation?
Related Conflict Resolution Article: Why Is Sincerity Important? How to Avoid Deception in Negotiation – Why is sincerity important in negotiation scenarios? Deception and building trust with your negotiating counterpart
Negotiation Examples in Real Life – Negotiating with Your Children: Negotiation examples in real life and conflict resolution in the home – negotiation tips for resolving disputes in any situation
Adapted from “How to Negotiate When You’re (Literally) Far Apart” by Roderick I. Swaab (professor, INSEAD) and Adam D. Galinsky (professor, Northwestern University), first published in the Negotiation newsletter, February 2007.
Originally published in 2011.