Email Negotiation Advice

With the onslaught of email and texting, it’s not surprising that more and more negotiation is being conducted by email.  Two interesting recent pieces from the blogosphere had some advice on this.  First, you should not actually be conducting negotiation over the email according to Vicky Pynchon at Settle It Now.  Scientific American just published a study that shows people are more likely to lie over email than when writing things down with pencil and paper.  “The authors suggest that e-mail is a young phenomenon and its social rules are looser and still evolving, whereas when you put something in writing, psychologically there is a stronger hold—it’s really there, in writing.”

And, should you be contemplating sending late night email, you might want to install this new program from Google.  As Diane Levin helpfully points out,   

Google, understanding full well the dark side of human nature (particularly that side of human nature that responds to its email after too many Jell-O shots in the wee hours of the morning), offers a solution: Mail Goggles. Here’s how it works:

When you enable Mail Goggles, it will check that you’re really sure you want to send that late night Friday email. And what better way to check than by making you solve a few simple math problems after you click send to verify you’re in the right state of mind?

By default, Mail Goggles is only active late night on the weekend as that is the time you’re most likely to need it. Once enabled, you can adjust when it’s active in the General settings.

What seems to me to still be missing is an email program that prevents “flaming” emails from being sent that you then later regret.  Perhaps Google can create a program that screens for four-letter words or too many exclamation points and then asks you if would prefer to send this email to a friend rather than the negotiator on the other side?

 

11 thoughts on “Email Negotiation Advice”

  1. Andrea, you may be interested to know that version 7 of Eudora, that much-loved email program, contains a feature called “Mood Alert”. Once enabled, “Mood Alert” allows users to set up warnings or delays in sending if an email message contains potentially offensive language. It utilizes a red pepper ranking system, ranging from one pepper (“message seems it might be offensive”) to three peppers (“message is on fire”). Thanks for the link, Andrea — always appreciated!

  2. It does not surprise me in the slightest that negotiations are beginning to be conducted over email. Our generation (20 somethings) is getting more and more accustomed to never dealing with anybody face to face or even over the phone for that matter. In the grand scheme of things, I think our ability to communicate, both in person and in writing, has diminished. It is one of the biggest hurdles all of us are facing when we enter the workplace. The interesting thing will be to see if the workplace adapts to us, or if we have to adapt to the workplace. I can certainly envision a scenario where the workplace ends up conforming to our generation, and it becomes socially acceptable to conduct all sorts of formal business/legal transactions in informal ways, such as over IM, text, email etc.

  3. So, being the tech nerd that I am, I did a little testing of Mail Goggles. I mean, it’s a cute function, and it’ll probably save some embarrassment, but I don’t know that the problems are difficult enough that most reasonably drunk people couldn’t solve them (unless, of course, the application is designed to frustrate people enough into not even trying.)

    But the bigger problem with the program is that it only works if you’re accessing Gmail from the WEB-based client. That is to say, if you’re like me and use a third-party mail client (Netscape Messenger, Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, etc.) to pull in e-mail from multiple accounts, it completely circumvents the Mail Goggle process. It doesn’t even error out; it just sends it like nothing’s changed. So, really, the protection isn’t going to work for anyone who doesn’t check e-mail on the web.

    As I’ve always said, the trick to prevent sending drunk e-mails is to turn off your computer before going out. That way, it takes WAY too much effort to get to the e-mail sending process when you get back home 🙂

  4. As an IT guy (going on 25 years now … Gad, I’m ooold …)

    … anyway, I would conduct a mediation by email only as a last resort.

    With email, all confidentiality is lost, communications become slow, and unless you are very, very careful it is quite easy to write an email which in your mind has a neutral tone but which recipients respond to as if flame.

    In face-to-face communication, over 90% of your message is communicated by body language and tone of voice wholly apart from your word choice.

    On a telephone call you lose body language but tone of voice carries more than 80% of your message.

    In an email, you have only word choice, punctuation! and SCREAMING CAPITALS—and smilies of course! ; P

    That’s no way to conduct a mediation. IMHO.

  5. Mediation by e-mail, I agree, isn’t a great idea. But negotiation by e-mail is often desirable, particularly with people you can’t trust to be truthful concern what they said. You have a paper trail to prove the terms of a deal once you have one, and can objectively locate terms that were received one way, but sent meaning something else. Also, negotiations by e-mail are more likely to stay on topic.

    This is more true now than it used to be in Colorado where the Colorado Supreme Court recently held that the mediation privilege covers even the terms of a final deal reached in mediation but not memorialized afterwards. In contast, Rule of Evidence 408, bars negotiation communications as evidence, but not as proof of the existence of a deal.

  6. Granted I’m new to dispute resolution, but am currently involved in an email “negotiation” with a bride regarding the bridesmaid’s dress (visual: chocolate cupcake meets 80s prom froo froo). As I artfully craft my responses to negotiate ways of minimizing the looming fashion atrocity, it occurs to me that email may actually be a good method for minimizing rapid fire disputes that you may regret later on. With email, parties can take time to think about their response (with enough self restraint) and craft carefully worded replies that better express what you want. It’s as if email negotiations can be placed into slow motion, giving parties the opportunity to vet responses (for example you can even run potential responses past neutral parties first). Then again there is always the risk that emails are “lost in translation” and create even bigger disputes…

  7. I agree that email could be a viable medium for negotiation. However, I agree that there is a tendency for people to lie or exaggerate through email. People also come off as overly emotional or can easily mask their emotions through email. I think this is due to the general feeling of anonymity on the Internet. It is much easier to write something heated or nasty in an email than it is to say it to the person’s face. While negotiation by email may keep people on topic, it could also draw out negotiations longer because parties are not forced by a face to face or phone conversation to give an immediate answer. Along these same lines, parties engaging in competitive negotiations would find it very easy to not make concessions (or completely truthful concessions) while finding it harder to feel out the other party’s feelings and situation.

    I’m not familiar with online mediation, but I cannot envision a way that only email could provide for an effective mediation. Would the parties CC the mediator for every exchange? How would the mediator gauge how the parties are progressing or get their emotions out there if they weren’t meeting in person? The mediator might need some mind reading techniques. Again, I could envision a very lengthy process if email was the primary source of communication.

  8. I think a similar function should be adopted into text messaging; some sort of buffer when you’ve had too many “JELL-O shots.”

    On a side note, while applying for jobs isn’t exactly negotiation, often email correspondence does have a negotiation feel in the context of employment. Your post reminded me of something my old boss, who headed an HR department told me, which might be helpful for students applying for jobs right now. She said whenever she was reviewing resumes sent through emails or cover letters, she felt less inclined to like the applicants who sent emails at 2am versus during the day. It sounded crazy to me as a student who does a lot of work in the late hours, but she explained she connotated someone being up at that hour sending out resumes irresponsible for some reason, less mature. And I suppose it make sense, how many full grown adults are up sending out emails at 3am?

    I think this holds true for any work related email correspondence. Whether it be a response to parties you’re mediating or negotiating with, I think those who notice little things like timestamps do read into it. And if it adds a bit of professionalism to wait to send out an email at 9am instead of 2am, it’s a small effort to wait.

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