How to Screw Up An Email Negotiation

send emailIn the new world of web work, you might find yourself negotiating by email over a job or project. Most of us know how to screw up phone or face-to-face discussions. Scotching plans by email requires a completely new approach.

Remember that email is asynchronous, impersonal, and only seemingly private. Use these characteristics to best advantage and you’ll never have to deal with a pesky email-negotiated business deal again.

Here are five unbeatable ways to screw up.

1. Make your emails as long as possible. This gives you the best chance of saying something stupid or offensive. It also increases the probability that your email will not be read in its entirety, thus setting the stage for later relationship-damaging and negotiation-destroying misunderstandings.

2. Don’t respond in a timely manner to emails you receive. Let the other person stew about what you’re planning or thinking. They might get so frustrated that they find someone else to work with. At the very least, they will doubt your interest in the job or project under consideration.

3. Learn to stalk, if warranted. If you find yourself on the other end of Principle #2 above and you’ve gone days without hearing anything, take a page from the Internet Stalker’s Handbook. Send email after email to your love… er… potential business partner. Tell them you can’t live without them. Make sure they know exactly how you feel, down to how your ingrown toenail reminds you of the pain you’ll suffer if you don’t get to work with them. Don’t, under any circumstances, send a quick and neutral follow-up note to check in. You need to escalate and suffocate not relate and motivate.

4. Never resort to synchronous means of discussion like instant messaging or god forbid, the telephone. (Except when deploying Principle #3, of course.) Sending an IM or picking up the phone is a bad idea. You might actually start to understand the other person’s point of view and they might understand yours. Worse, you could find yourself in a back-and-forth that leads to connection and agreement. Email’s strength is how it leaves long pauses between complete misunderstandings, allowing said misunderstandings to fester and grow until they kill the discussions outright.

5. If you suspect you have been insulted, you probably have–respond immediately in kind. Try the Shakespearean Insult Kit if you can’t come up with any good ones yourself. Calling someone a droning crookpated footlicker is sure to squash any chance at agreement. You probably won’t ever have to hear from that fobbing clay-brained cankerblossom again.

For extra credit and to ensure you won’t ever confront negotiation by email again, publish the entire thread on the web for everyone to read.

How do you find email as a tool for negotiating? Share your dos and don’ts here.


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