What is Virtual Negotiation?
While in-person negotiations are often preferable, they aren’t always practical. That’s why virtual negotiation skills are essential.
Negotiators who meet in person reach better deals than those who engage in virtual negotiation, research shows. Face-to-face meetings offer invaluable nonverbal and verbal cues, such as eye contact, body language, and tone of voice, that facilitate understanding and build lasting bonds.
But virtual negotiation allows us to negotiate across the miles cheaply and quickly. Videoconferencing through Zoom, Skype, and other online portals is more convenient and cost-effective than flying to another state or country. And we can still, to some degree, be face to face.
Yet negotiating via video is not the same as being there. In a virtual negotiation, we see less of the other person and their environment than we do when negotiating in person. Individuals typically appear as “talking heads”—that is, only their heads and upper torsos show on the screen.
Moreover, technical difficulties are par for the course. It’s not unusual to have trouble linking up or to suddenly lose audio and/or video during a meeting. Such glitches may interrupt the flow of a negotiation or leave us feeling irritated, which could keep us from negotiating at our best.
One technique that works to overcome these problems is small talk. Just as you would for an in-person negotiation, take time at the start of a virtual negotiation to engage in small talk, which could lead you to identify commonalities and see past superficial differences.
Discover how to negotiate from a social distance with this free report Make the Most of Online Negotiations, from Harvard Law School.
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