Why You Should Never Negotiate Over Email

In last week’s boss tip post all about why you should always get a job offer in writing, I alluded to it being super important that you never negotiate via email. Some folks found that a little surprising because they think email is always a little safer since you have time to think over how you’re going to say what you want to say and you’re able to choose your words carefully.

I totally get it: negotiation can be nerve-racking, but hiding behind your keyboard will produce detrimental results for you.

Here are a couple of reasons why you should never negotiate via email.

1. You’ll want vocal tone and body language working for you

In a world that doesn’t always like women who are negotiating on their own behalf, you want the full spectrum of vocal tone and body language working for you. When you’re negotiating, you’re being really assertive. If you have vocal tone to work with while you’re doing it, or if you have facial expressions, hand gestures, or body positions to set a warm tone, it can help counteract some of the inevitable bias that we run into along the way.

So while we’re doing something difficult – like asking for more money – we can do so with a smile on our face, and nodding our head to show that we’re actively listening to any concerns, to help our cause.

Now should we have to do this? No! But I’m all about playing the cards we’ve been dealt, while changing a game.

We need to use every psychological hack we can have in our toolbox to really make sure our counteroffer, or any assertive conversation we have for that matter, has the full spectrum of communication, both verbal and non-verbal going for us.

We all know that sometimes people misread your tone in emails. I catch myself doing this all the time. I’m like, “‘Dang! She was being really curt! Or, wow, he was being really short with me!” When really, they were probably just replying on the go from their smartphone.

People often assume the worst with your tone via email, no matter how many emojis or exclamation marks you put in there. It’s either too much or too little for everybody. So I encourage you to reap the benefits of having vocal tone and body language on your side by always delivering a counteroffer in person or over the phone or over a video chat if possible.

2. Nobody likes a laundry list

Early on in my career, I counter-offered with a huge bullet-pointed laundry list of demands, which went so poorly they actually rescinded the job offer – every negotiator’s worst nightmare!

That event was my catalyst for becoming a total negotiation nerd – reading all the science I could and everything on how to become an expert negotiator.

At the time, I didn’t realize that the way I’d presented my email looked like a long list of demands. No matter how you word it, getting a point-by-point demand sheet is just not the way to go. It doesn’t go over well as compared to having that list in your head or notes prepared when you come into a negotiation conversation live, in real time.

Being present in the conversation will allow you to be able to pivot between your top priorities and really gauge the reaction you’re getting along the way.

3. You need real time conversations

When you send a counter offer via email, you have no idea how the recipient of that email is reacting. They might be having a terrible day as they read your email in a terrible mood and have a terrible reaction. If someone comes into a conference room, having a terrible day, giving off all that no-good, very-bad terrible energy, at least you’ll know what you’re working with and will be able to say, “Is this a good time to talk, or should we postpone?”

You’ll be able to better parse through their emotional state and then react to it, in real time.

Let’s say one bullet point goes over well, so you move on to the next, and the next one really sets them off or causes concern, you’ll want to react to them in that moment and say, “Tell me more about what you’re concerned about here. I’d love to find a way forward that works for everyone.”

You need these conversations to happen in real time in order for you to be able to do that.

Bottom line: negotiating via email put you at a disadvantage.

Let’s use every tool in our communications toolbox: vocal tone, body language, hand gestures, and reacting in a real-time conversational format.

If you’re gearing up for any kind of negotiation in the year ahead, you’ll want to check out our newly published Definitive Guide for Negotiating Your Salary As a Woman. It’s a comprehensive guide designed to be your go-to resource for any kind of negotiation with step-by-step guidance, advice, and real scripts.

If you want more of an interactive training to negotiation, I’m hosting my negotiation live workshop on January 22 – space is limited. All your questions will be answered in real time, and not only will we walk through the interactive workshop together, but you’ll get a 70+ page workbook that includes exercises for you to practice to hone in on your negotiation skills with expert guidance along the way.

Learn more and register here before space fills up!

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