Tips For Negotiating Online

The challenge of negotiating online is trying to generate rapport
The challenge of negotiating online is trying to generate rapport
Image Credit: Monito – Money Transfer

When we enter into a negotiation, we are facing a number of different challenges. One of the biggest can be cultural barriers to communication if the other side comes from a different background than you do. In order to overcome such issues, we need to find different ways to use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to communicate with the other side using manners, body language, and perhaps even our physical appearance. When we are negotiating with someone online, a number of the ways that we communicate will not be available to us. However, we are still going to have to find a way to build a sense of rapport with them.

Skills Needed For Negotiating Online

Online negotiating is a brave new world. This type of negotiating is very different from either face-to-face or even telephone negotiating. These more traditional types of negotiating allow us to create a greater sense of social awareness with the other side and leads to better stability and cooperation than we can expect to achieve during an online negotiation. As negotiators we are going to have to find ways to transfer the rapport building skills that we’ve developed for traditional negotiations to the brave new world of online negotiations.

So what are we dealing with here? When we are negotiating with someone online we need to understand that their social norms may be unclear to us. If we find ourselves having troubles relating to them, then we need to take the time to pay close attention to them in order to see if we can get any hints regarding how we should be behaving. When we are negotiating online we will be limited. The only clues that we will have are words that are typed on the screen. Using this input we are going to run into problems trying to respond to the other side’s style. Such things as the use to capital letters in an email, the presence of emoticons, or even idle chatter about the weather all mean something and you are going to have to figure out how to respond.

Just to make things a bit tougher for you, the way that online negotiations are conducted is different than how we do it face-to-face. The speed at which we can exchange electronic communications allows us to conduct our negotiations using short, direct messages. The result of this is that neither side may take the time to think through exactly what they would like to say and how they should go about saying it. This can work if we were just having a quick factual exchange with the other side. However, if we are engaged in a more extensive collaborative negotiation that will require discussion and reflection on both sides then this can easily complicate negotiation strategies.

How We Communicate During A Negotiation Online

Where the world of online negotiations becomes a bit strange is when we realize that people tend to act differently online than they do in person. As an example of this, when we are negotiating with people face-to-face the other side is more likely to reveal information to us honestly. When we get this information from them, we will generally believe them and take action based on what they have told us. However, when we are negotiating with someone online they will tend to hold back on sharing private information with us. If they do decide to open up and share information with us, we will more often than not be wary about responding to their actions by sharing our information.

As though this was not enough, it gets even worse. The people who study negotiations have taken a look at the emails that get exchanged during an online negotiation. What they have discovered is that these emails contain information that is less likely to be true, less likely to be relevant to the negotiation that is going on, and less likely to be clear. The end result of this is that the information that is being shared is going to be less informative than the information that gets shared during a face-to-face negotiation.

As negotiators what we need to realize is that being able to create a trusting, collaborative online negotiation is something that is rarely done. One of the key reasons is that when we are communicating with the other side via emails, there is a real possibility that bluffs and threats can increase. If this happens, then all of sudden we can start to experience an episode of “flaming”. When this happens, both sides can start to send off heated email messages without taking the time to think about the consequences of their actions.

What All Of This Means For You

The world of negotiating is changing. What used to be done face-to-face or over the telephone is now starting to be done online. This poses a number of unique challenges for negotiators. When we are communicating with someone either face-to-face or over the phone we are able to overcome cultural barriers by sensing their feedback to what we are telling them via body language and voice inflection. However, when we are negotiating with someone online these cues are missing. Negotiators need to learn to adapt to the world of online negotiating.

When we are negotiating with someone face-to-face or over the phone, it is possible for us to establish a sense of rapport with them. However, this is hard to do when we are negotiating with someone online. When negotiating online we won’t have access to the clues that we normally have that tell us what the other side is thinking. Instead, we’ll have to try to guess their thoughts based on the content of the emails that they have sent to us. Things become trickier because an online principled negotiation tend to happen so fast. Both sides can get caught up in the moment and we don’t take the time to think about what we are going to be putting into our next email. When we are negotiating with someone online, they will tend to hold back and not share as much information with us. Likewise, people are more likely to to be untruthful in their email communications. Negotiating online is hard to do and it can be all too easy for one or the other side to start to use bluffs or threats.

The world has moved on and we really can’t make it move back. Negotiating online is now a part of our lives. We need to take the time to study this new form of negotiating and understand how to make the most of it. Realizing that online negotiating is not the same as face-to-face or telephone negotiations is a key first step. The next time that you find yourself involved in an online negotiation, slow things down and take the time to build some rapport with the other side so that you can reach the deal that you both want.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that there would ever be a time that an online negotiation should be stopped and you should meet face-to-face?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Let’s face it – you can’t negotiate without having some emotions come into play. We all tend to get upset, excited, depressed, and elated at different times during a negotiation because of the negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that are involved. Without a lot of surprise it turns out that the people who study such things are learning about the connections among emotions, negotiators, and decision making. Since such emotions can influence the results of our negotiations, it sure seems as though we should take some time and understand how our emotions can influence our outcomes.