I do not know about you, but I have been emailing much much more over the last thirteen months than in pre-Covid days. And, with this increase has come attempts to negotiate by e mail.

A recent study confirms what my gut has told me: that negotiating by e mail definitely has its challenges. In an April 5, 2021 blog post entitled “The Pitfalls of Negotiations Over Email” by the PON Staff, the writer concludes that negotiating by e mail has many more disadvantages than advantages.

In a 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, these researchers asked participants to communicate in a series of statements using sarcasm, seriousness, anger or sadness to a friend or a stranger by using either face-to-face, email or telephone.

The researchers found that the participants overestimated how the other person would interpret their tone and this was especially so when using email.

The researchers concluded – which comes as no surprise- that using email “… often decreases information exchange, thereby leading to impasse and inefficient agreements compared with negotiations conducted in person.” (Id.)

Why? For one thing, it is extremely difficult to build rapport. And as my last blog noted, trust and rapport are crucial to building any sort of a relationship. Also, one cannot read body language in an email, and as previously noted, the bulk of our communication is via body language or non-verbal cues. Obviously, these non-verbal cues are absent in an email exchange.  And as just noted, we will often misinterpret the emotion and tone of an e mail; for example, thinking it to be sarcastic when in reality the writer meant it seriously. And, of course, it is difficult to be empathetic in an email which is also crucial to building a relationship.

As a result, as many issues as may exist with negotiating over Zoom (or some other video conference portal), it appears to be a much better avenue for negotiation than attempting to forge an agreement using email.

Technology… love it or hate it or both!

… Just something to think about.


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