“I want to know HOW we negotiate differently on Zoom and what specialized strategies and tactics I should use in this new environment,” this training attendee asked via chat in a recent webinar on a related subject.
We’ve been negotiating forever in person and for almost 150 years by phone. But we’ve just recently started negotiating while staring at a camera lens or computer monitor.
Two months ago I described the factors to evaluate in deciding the forum in which to negotiate in my column Negotiating Online in 2020: Strategies to Get Results.
Here we explore video negotiations at a deeper level. In Part One, I will address the advantages and disadvantages of negotiating via video. Should you do it? In Part Two, next month’s column, I will focus on what should you do – and what should you avoid – while staring at that computer screen.
Advantages of Zoom Negotiations
Several months ago, it was too dangerous to meet in person and negotiate face-to-face because of the COVID-19 contagion. Now in many places in the world we can choose. Here are the primary negotiation-related factors to consider:
1. Video is Humanizing
The biggest advantage to video negotiations lies in its humanizing element. It connects us in a more personal way to actually see our counterpart’s facial expressions and body language than phone or email, albeit less than in person interactions.
I was recently speaking with a client who told me she connects better now with her bosses than in pre-pandemic times, largely because of their weekly Zoom happy hours.
2. It’s Harder to Say “No” on Video
It’s also harder to say “no” on video than on the phone or in writing (but easier than in person). Consider this if you want a “yes” in a negotiation.
3. Video Communication Has Become Normal
Finally, video communication – versus the phone – has become somewhat of a norm. A recent study, before the pandemic, found that 70% of negotiations were exclusively virtual or by email.
Last week I received an invite from a potential client to discuss virtual training, and I could participate by phone or video. It was better to join with video, which I did (and which they did, too). But I felt compelled to do it this way, as to join by phone might have been perceived as a slight.
Disadvantages of Zoom Negotiations
The biggest problem with video negotiations is that we feel it’s just like face-to-face. But it’s not. Significant differences exist. Many are not positive.
1. Video Communication Makes Us Feel Anxious and Disconnected
There’s a great article in the New York Times titled Why Zoom is Terrible that concludes “[p]sychologists, computer scientists and neuroscientists say the distortions and delays inherent in video communication can end up making you feel isolated, anxious and disconnected.”
The article notes that video’s “blocking, freezing, blurring, jerkiness and out-of-synch audio” confound perception and mess up our social cues.
Bottom line – video communication distorts and leads to an unnatural feeling. And this causes major problems in negotiations where your feelings about your counterpart may make or break a deal.
2. Video Distorts Our Signals and Increases Chances of Miscommunication
Research has also found that video communications carry an increased risk of miscommunication and mistrust. Why? Because we can’t actually look each other in the eye and accurately interpret facial cues and expressions and body language.
The camera angle may show someone appearing to look up or down or to the side. And signals sent by these views may easily suggest to your counterpart that you are uninterested, shifty or not a straight shooter, according the New York Times article. At the least, you may appear distracted and not paying attention – true or not.
3. Video Changes How We Interact – Often Not For The Better
Finally, video unconsciously changes how we act and interact, and usually not in a positive way. We thus may send mixed and scrambled signals to our counterparts and come across as inauthentic.
For instance, almost everyone is concerned with how we appear on screen. It’s not that we’re all vain – it’s just natural. But as a result, we find ourselves often looking at our image on the computer. (It’s hard to just stare at the camera lens, although this is the only way to appear to maintain eye contact). The result of this shifting eye movement? You seem inauthentic.
Latz’s Lesson: Sometimes you should negotiate by video (humanizes, harder to say “no”, the new norm). Other times not (distorts, increased miscommunication, mistrust and inauthenticity). So when in doubt – don’t do video!
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Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation, a national negotiation training and consulting company that helps individuals and organizations achieve better results with best practices based on the experts’ research. He also has two bestselling books Gain the Edge! and The Real Trump Deal: An eye-opening Look at How He Really Negotiates. He can be reached at 480.951.3222 or Marty@LatzNegotiation.com.