The Advantages of Negotiating Over Email

Last Updated Apr 27, 2009 12:19 PM EDT

You wouldn't want to bargain your next salary increase over email, but there are some types of negotiation that may be enhanced by an electronic intermediary.

Take real estate deals. According to Harvard Business School professor Kathleen McGinn, an expert in negotiation, email might be just the ticket for closing on your next Shangri-la. Why? She tells the New York Times:

  • In a face-to-face negotiation, the parties may be less inclined to be forthcoming with what they want because they don't want to be perceived as petty or money-grubbing.
  • An e-mail trail makes the brokers more accountable for the information they convey.
  • But, she adds, negotiation emails should be taken seriously, not written in haste. And observe email etiquette. Putting a demand in all caps or responding snappishly with a string of !!! might lead to a conflict spiral.
Have you used email to negotiate a deal? What was your experience?

(Email image by derrickkwa, CC 2.0)

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.