I thought I’d deviate from ruminating about nuts & bolts and digress into “process.” What happened to the telephone? Does anyone think that discussions by email are always more efficient or effective, that they really Get The Deal Done better, faster, and cheaper?
I’m not talking about effective and efficient transfers of information. I’m talking about the interactive negotiation process. Using email to negotiate complicated matters is like playing tennis in total darkness. You don’t know where to aim the ball, but you hit it over the net (if you can) anyway. The return can’t be seen, you only hear it bounce. That’s email for complicated issues.
When you play tennis in the sunlight, you can see your opponent’s position and stance. That lets you choose from a much smaller number of possible shots. You can respond to your opponent’s returns. The result is that you volley. You play the game together. That’s the telephone approach.
In the dark, you hit the ball and your opponent misses it – a point for you. Love, 15, 30, 40, game. You win. Sounds great, right? Now, your opponent gets to serve. You can’t see the ball. Love, 15,30, 40, game. Now you lose.
Yes, back and forth – back and forth.
Let me digress. What made me think to write this Blog entry at this time? Well, I was in a Starbucks and across from me was a table of four friends. (I think they were friends – you decide). Were they talking to each other? No. Each of the four was texting (or emailing). So, did they satisfy their joint mission which certainly included being together? I don’t know. You’ve all witnessed such a scene, but do we realize that we are doing the same thing when we negotiate these days?
Negotiation is an interactive process. You pick up on cues. It is analog – you adjust to what you hear. It isn’t digital – perfect statements, each within own channel.
Don’t get me wrong. Electronics have transformed our businesses, mostly for the better. My key message, however, is “mostly.”
Isn’t it ironic? There would be no way for me to share these thoughts as broadly were it not for email and email-like means. Yet, in doing so, I’m begging for a “conversation.” Aren’t I being hypocritical? Here’s my rationalization. Jack has a hammer. Linda has a toolbox. Jack fixes everything with the hammer. Linda chooses from her toolbox wisely, sometimes using a hammer and sometimes using a saw. Sometime using email, and sometimes using the telephone, whichever tool works best.
Let me hear from you. You can phone me. Post your comments to the Ruminations Blog at www.retailrealestatelaw.com.
N.B. After writing this, I came across this quote from a Bankruptcy judge criticizing an attorney appearing before her: “[M]uch of the time spent on motion papers could more efficiently and productively have been spent on the telephone with opposing counsel… .” So, the problem is not ours alone.