What about texts in negotiations? What do you think?

Man in suit sitting at desk looking at phone and texting

You may think texts are for the young and new entries into the work force. You may think texts don’t belong in a work environment. On the other hand, you may think texting is perfectly normal. It is a way of life. It is a way to get to the point with another person quickly.

Either way texts are a way of life in society today. How about in a negotiation? Here are some thoughts to think about.

 

Reality

 

Whether you text a lot or a little, if you look at your texts you are likely to find that you have negotiated something with someone on your history. It could be personal with friends and family or something else related to a group or something at work. It could be with your landlord. It could be with neighbors. The reality is that we do negotiate with texts today. So, what are the things to think about? This article runs through some pro’s and cons of texting. Is this a viable tool in negotiations? What are some do’s and don’ts? The implications are real at home, at work and in life.

 

Pro’s

 

Texts are fast. Turnaround is quick. Texts are concise and to the point. They are an example of improved efficiency. Texts can allow team members to interact with each other without speaking to each other during a negotiation. They can allow team members to interact with others outside of the negotiation. Emojis can help explain emotions beyond the words.

Where technology is an issue this can be the only way. Other forms may not work as well or at all.

Texts can cut though the vast amount of information and get right to the point.

There is no misinterpretation when someone makes a very blunt statement in a text. Young people may feel a lot more confident in this environment. For the less experienced the one line, return, next line can feel like being hit with a rapid-fire weapon. For the experienced this is just normal as tweets and responses may simply be flowing. Keep this in mind with whom you are interacting and their comfort level.

It is not necessary to always respond. It is possible to take time before responding.

 

Con’s

 

Expediency may result in miscommunication. Conciseness in a sound bite may leave out crucial information. Expediency may not allow time for reflection and consideration of additional information.

Communications may be misinterpreted. It can be hard to type on such a small screen. This is especially true if emotions are running high. It is harder to concentrate and text when we are upset.

Texts may feel impersonal and abrupt leading to false impressions.

Emojis received may not be the emojis sent. This can cause further confusion and miscommunication.

The attitude in communication is 7% by words, 38% by tone and 55% by body language and facial expressions. Texts do not include either tone, body language or facial expressions. As a result, up to 93% of the attitude associated with the words may be lost. Saying it another way, texts lack the vocal and visual clues of an in-person meeting. Misunderstandings are more likely without these cues.

On the other hand, for well developed relationships, this may not be necessary as the parties know each other, their habits and their normal texting habits.

 

What about in negotiations?

 

In the most stressful of negotiations, police hostage negotiators are now finding themselves having to use texts as a preferred method by younger hostage takers. These police hostage negotiators have been taught how to listen and how to use emotions effectively. With texts this adds an additional level of complexity. Given the preference to text and not to use the phone, police hostage negotiators are working through the necessary change.

In another study by Livia Levine it was found live single line texts elicited more cooperative behavior than did in person communications with the millennial generation.

It would appear that younger negotiators may actually favor texts and emails to in person communications in a negotiation.

For simpler less complex negotiations texts may be the preferred way to go. If the commentary becomes too complex via text traditional methods such as using the phone, skype, zoom, and in person approaches may be better. However, that is not always the case either. Participant’s perspective really matters. How users perceive the medium matters. The ability to use the medium really matters. Some feel they can more honestly present their feelings with a text. For some this is the preferred method for their emotional complex negotiations. For many adolescent’s texting is the last thing they do before they call it day. Think about the implications. This is true for many under age 30.

 

Some do’s and don’ts

 

Punctuation matters. Check it. That is in negotiations. In other venues this may or may not be as critical.

Use spell check – and then check spell check - this is critical for me. My kids get a kick out of some my mistakes with auto spell check. This would not be funny in a negotiation.

Double check what you are stating before you send it. With an email that you write today and save overnight, you may want to rewrite it or toss it tomorrow. You don’t have to respond immediately. Don’t write and send something you may be sorry about in the future. Remember the written commentary is there forever even if you or they delete it.

Text more now to enhance your skills.

Use additional attributes of the system. Explore what options you like or don’t like. Get a mentor.

Consider both positive and negative implications. For example: No way! I can’t!!! Don’t waste my time!

Let the other side know you need time. For example: I need to think about this overnight. Let me talk to my partner about this and I will get back to you. I am currently tied up with other things… will be back to you when I can.

It is still necessary to express your needs and interests.

 

Implications

 

So, is it appropriate? That depends on who you ask. One thing for sure, texting is with us. For those having a harder time, it is time to adapt. Change can be hard, but this change is here. The horse is out of the barn and through the gate. It is time to grieve that the old way is gone and lament. Then it is time to view this as both a chaotic and creative time. Look for the opportunity to make good use of the tool. As with any tool, it takes time to learn how to use it and to learn the limitations of the tool.

With practice in application you may be surprised how well it may help with negotiations in your future.

As you adapt consider asking others to come back to you with an email, a call or an in-person meeting. Understand and be receptive. Do what you are comfortable with going forward. Be ready to accept the change in technology at work, at home and in various types of negotiations.

Depending on the issue, the complexity, the time frames involved and the participants, texts may be a very valuable tool in negotiations. Rather than ignoring or belittling the tool give texts consideration. Include texts in your tool box. What do you see as other pros or con’s that you think should be included beyond this commentary? What have been your experiences? I would love to hear from you.

To explore on this topic consider this article by Noam Ebner at Creighton University or this commentary by Katie Shonk from the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation.

 

About the author

 

Mike is a professional speaker, negotiator and mediator. You may contact Mike directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 11 books including Business Valuations and the IRS: Five Books in One, The Servant Manager and Peaceful Resolutions. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]