Doing a lease, a loan or a sale (and things like that) shouldn’t be like doing a divorce; it should be like doing an adoption. These are just business deals; just “money.” No one is or should be besmirching anyone’s reputation, seeking revenge or taking children away. And, even if that were the case, the negotiators are not the angry parties. Presumably, they are professionals.
So, why won’t some return phone calls, email messages or letters? Certainly, it can’t be to “punish” the other negotiator. It must be plain (unprofessional) discourtesy. And it makes “your” problem someone else’s problem as well.
If you haven’t done the work – didn’t get to it yet – fess up. Let the other side know so that it can make its own plans – so that it can update its own principal (e.g., client). Don’t put the other negotiator in the position of trying to explain the status of a transaction to her or his “party,” when they she or he doesn’t have information that you have.
If the delay has already been unreasonable, don’t double down by “going missing.” Don’t make your counterpart spend wasted time trying to reach you and also spend wasted time telling her or his principle that she or he isn’t hearing back from you.
Yes, there are times when your own principle isn’t getting back to you and you don’t know what to tell “the other side.” Why not tell them that you and your principle haven’t yet worked out a usable response. You don’t have to complain (or reveal) that your principle (e.g., client) has gone missing.
Silence is often interpreted more adversely than reasonably accurate information that one might not want to hear.
Yes, you are sometimes put in the middle. Do your best to keep your counterpart in negotiations from being dragged into your dilemma.
How about: “I received your email (or voicemail) message and I’m working on it. I’ll let you know when I can back to you as soon as I have a good idea as to when that might be.”
Sometimes, the call you don’t return was to give you information that might help you move the ball forward.
Sometimes, when you are afraid to say that you won’t be able to send your “comments” for a week, you could have found out that it was: “No problem, I’m on vacation until then.”
Here’s what puzzles Ruminations the most. Haven’t you been on the other side of the “gone missing, silent treatment” yourself? Haven’t you been in the uncomfortable position of feeling that your client or boss doesn’t believe you after the fifth time you’ve repeated, “She or he isn’t getting back to me”? Haven’t you ever been in a position of deal limbo that wouldn’t be the case if you had some idea about when you’ll “hear back”?
So, why do that to someone else?
Ruminations has no intent, today or any other day, to imply that all of its readers are “guilty as charged.” We are sure there are many readers who never fit into the “you” we have written about today. But, is there any reader who has been in this business more than a year or two who couldn’t supply the name of a “you” or two or ten who don’t respond to inquiries and who take forever to turn work around? Ruminations will go out on a limb and answer, “No.”
While we are at it, if you don’t go to court or aren’t in a meeting, please ask your staff to stop saying that’s what’s going on. How do you answer the next day (or three days later) when asked, “how did it go in court on Monday?” What we’ve often heard is: “what are you talking about, I never go to court.” A simple, “she’s not available, can I take a message” would suffice.
Why a screed today, Ruminations? That’s because it’s a holiday weekend and our practice is to keep it short(er) and to stay away from information-packed postings. Also, we got annoyed last week. It’s hard to feel you are a professional when you are involved with others who clearly aren’t. You feel like a character in “The Pig Got Up and Slowly Walked Away,” lyrics by Benjamin Hapgood Burt.