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Remote and Asynchronous Negotiations

What are the options for negotiators when doing business across different locations and times?

Negotiators can employ various modes of communication based upon location and time.

  • Face-to-face communication – Face to face communication is crucial in the initiation of relationships and collaborations. It encourages cooperation in negotiators and fosters the development of interpersonal synchrony and rapport. Notably, it allows for non-verbal forms of negotiation. People primarily rely on nonverbal signals to help them conduct social interaction.
  • Same time, different place – This type of communication occurs through some form of information technology, such as a telephone or computer system. The challenges of this type of communication are a loss of informal communication, a separation between interaction and feedback, and flexibility in the timing of the negotiation.
  • Different time, same place – This happens when negotiators interact asynchronously, but have access to the same physical document or space. This is very common with programs allowing for collaborative work on documents or projects.
  • Different place, different time – Negotiators communicate asynchronously from different places. Numerous biases that affecting this type of communication include:
    • Temporal synchrony bias – The tendency for negotiators to behave as if they are communicating synchronously when in fact they are not.
    • Exit bias – The perception that the negotiation is unstable and should end.
    • Flaming bias – Insulting or critical remarks or defamations of character that people exchange via electronic mail.
    • Sinister attribution bias – Tendency for e-communicators to ascribe diabolical intentions to the other party. See also sinister attribution error (Kramer 1995).

All of these modes of communication can (or, in some situations, must) be facilitated by information technology.

What is information technology and how does it affect negotiation?

There is no consensus on whether information technology effects the ability to reach integrative agreements or whether they affect equality of outcome. When we communicate via technology, we attend less to the other person and more on the message they are disseminating. Potential benefits of communicating through IT include:

  • Strength of Argument – Stronger arguments are more successful – weaker arguments are less effective due to the effect of IT on persuasive process.
  • TimeGreater ability (time) to ruminate over a negative or confrontational message.
  • Perception of Risk – Individuals assume those with whom they are unfamiliar are more risk prone than themselves or those with whom they are familiar.
  • Visual & Social CuesThe primary effect of commenting through IT is that it limits the dissemination of social information that comes from visual cues common to face-to-face communication. There is an increased focus on what is said rather than the individual characteristics of those who are communicating. For example, the absence of smiles, nodding, handshakes, and the scarcity of questions about the other person or disclosures about the self might impede negotiators’ attempts to establish a working relationship or build the trust.
  • Identity Association – We act in accordance with norms associated with the salient identities attributed to use personally or through a group. We show a significantly greater opinion shift in the direction of group norms when their shared group identity is salient than when individual identity was salient. A shared cooperative identity tends to avoid distributive behavior in favor of a cooperative negotiation. Priming group identities associated with cooperation as they build rapport prior to exchanging offers yields less competition and more integrative agreements.
  • Rapport and RelationshipsPeople are more willing to help a target who is more identifiable than one who is more abstract. For example, the extent to which we are willing to give money to another person has also been shown to depend on how identifiable that person is. The existence of prior relationship is shown to yield cooperation in the negotiation. The stronger the relationship between negotiators, the more likely they are to share information. An existing relationship increases negotiators’ concern about the outcome of the other party. Taken one step further, the less abstract the other person about whom I make a judgment, the more likely I am to judge that person as more similar to me.
  • Trust and Perception of the Other Party – On-line negotiators trust each other less. They report less desire for future relationships, less confidence in their performance, and less overall satisfaction. Negotiating via IT causes us to view our counterparts less positively than if communicating face-to-face. Likewise, people who are preparing to negotiate face-to-face expect to trust the other party more than people who are preparing to negotiate using e-mail. Trust and the resultant increased sharing of information is a necessary aspect of achieving integrative outcomes. Each believes that revealing some information about one’s own preferences and priorities will be reciprocated by the other party, allowing for discovery of mutually beneficial negotiation solutions.
  • Status and power: Status predicts domination in the communication. When negotiators interact via technology, power and status differences/cues are minimized. This is known as the “weak get strong” effect. As such, people respond more openly and are less likely to conform to social norms. Communicating via IT may also allow greater control over the informational content of the interaction. This may reduce the seller’s conversational dominance, resulting in outcomes being more equal.
  • Cooperationsome studies show that parties behave more cooperatively when negotiating face-to-face. Also, negotiators tend to behave less cooperatively when they have visual access to one another than when they do not.
  • Social networks It, such as computerized interaction, increases resources of low-network people. It provides alternate routes for low contributors in face-to-face meetings. Unfortunately, it makes parties less likely to desire future interaction with their counterpart after the negotiation is finished.
  • Risk taking – Decision makers have a tendency to be risk averse for gains and risk seeking for losses. This is known as the framing effect. Groups make riskier decisions than individuals. Paradoxically, electronically communicating groups are risk seeking for both gains and losses
  • Confidence and Satisfaction Parties who negotiate face-to-face have been reported to feel more confident in their performance and satisfied with the outcome than parties who negotiate via computer (Naquin & Paulson, 2003; Purdy et al., 2000; Thompson & Coovert, 2003).

What are some tactics for improving negotiation through information technology?

Attempt to ascertain our negotiation partner’s affective qualities. The other side’s experienced emotions may “leak” from verbal expressions during the negotiation. Their moods may be learned from secondary sources of information, such as conversations with a third party prior to the negotiation.

  • Establish a RelationshipWhere social perceptions and intimacy have not been established, such as negotiations between strangers, the lack of visual access, synchronicity, and efficacy inherent in e-mail can result in less cooperation, coordination, truth telling, and rapport building. even in a purely distributive, single-issue negotiation, the use of information technology can alter the likelihood of success depending on the extent to which the other party is perceived as a stranger. Establishing a face-to-face meeting prior to negotiation may aid in this. In any event, it may be advantageous to avoid less intimate communication methods (such as email) until a relationship is formed. Including a photograph in an e-mail is a technique that has been associated with gaining compliance with unsolicited requests sent by strangers.
  • Establish Common GroundA basis for common ground—whether it is a prior relationship, in-group membership, or a brief personal e-mail chat before negotiating—can mitigate the negative effects of negotiating through IT. Exchange of personal information via e-mail or having a preliminary phone conversation are methods of establishing common ground sufficiently, at least in some contexts, to overcome the disadvantages conferred by the e-mail medium. Left to their own devices, negotiators using e-mail will naturally attempt to establish common ground by engaging in an initial exchange of personal information that promotes cooperation and trust.
  • Schmoozing – Superficial contact that has the psychological effect of establishing a relationship between people. The reciprocal exchange of crucial information about relative preferences and priorities is higher among negotiators who schmooze and develop a basis for trust. Negotiators who schmooze expect more strongly to cooperate, do cooperate by sharing more relevant multiple-issue information, and receive more cooperation in return from their counterpart. Behaving cooperatively in such a way that leads to a greater probability of agreement and more equal sharing of surplus. Negotiators who schmooze form an impression of their counterpart as significantly more accomplished, skilled, effective, and perceptive than the impression formed by negotiators who did not schmooze.
  • Demonstrate reciprocity – Reciprocity sparked by a cooperative gesture can make e-negotiations significantly less competitive. For example, when one party made a disclosure of private information regarding his BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement)—and by implication, his reservation price—at the start of a purely distributive e-negotiation, competition was suppressed, leading the other party to both make less demanding offers as well as settle for less profit. Regardless of the task at hand, those communicating via technology use a significantly higher proportion of questions and produced a higher proportion of self-disclosures. By contrast, those interacting face-to-face displayed a greater proportion of other types of expressions, such as greetings, back-channeling statements, imperatives, statements about third parties, statements of fact that were not personal in nature, and other filler items that were neither questions nor statements of self-disclosure.

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