Pick Up The Phone
This post first appeared in January 2014 Asdem Newsletter. To see this Newsletter please go to www.asdem.co.uk and look for the ‘Newsletters’ tab
Towards the end of last year the newspapers reported on research with the headline that almost 40% of 18-24 year olds were nervous of using the telephone. To read more on this survey check out this link:
The article reveals that it’s not just youngsters. Over a quarter of the workforce prefers to use email rather than telephone. This comes as no surprise to me as we are now encouraged by modern technology to use email, text messages and other social media and our mobile phones support all these modes and we can forget the art of conversation.
In the demurrage world we rely almost exclusively on email to conduct our negotiations and for 95% of the time this works well. We like the format of email where we can craft and set out our arguments in a logical and thoughtful way. When we receive a reply we have time to consider and investigate the arguments put forward by the other side. Where it gets tricky is when we reach a deadlock in an argument and neither side is willing to budge. The email exchanges often become a case of merely repeating the same argument in different ways over and over again.
Sometimes disputes arise because we use email. I say this because whilst English is normally the language used in this business, it is not the first language of many users. Even native speakers like me can often choose the wrong words or phrases which fail to get the intended message across. The big thing missing from email is any sense of the tone of the message. To illustrate the point, try telling a joke on email. Emails cannot covey the emotion of the sender unlike face-to-face meetings or telephone conversations.
This business is about the relationships we have with people. Meetings and phone calls are the best way to start building relationships and this will show through in your negotiations. The global nature of this business means that we don’t get to meet the people we are negotiating with very often so the next best thing is to speak to them on the telephone.
If you are heading for a dispute, pick up the phone and talk to your counterparty. It is surprising how the misunderstandings created by emails can be clarified and the dispute resolved. A couple of points to remember:
a) Preparation – you have to think on your feet so prepare your call well and try to anticipate what the other side may say to you.
b) Confirmation – it is always a good idea to confirm in writing what has been agreed in a phone call.
I’m sure the statistics quoted above are not as high for this business, but if you are reluctant to use the phone give it a try and see how it goes. The first few calls may not work out how you intended them to, but as you get more experienced it will get easier.
Have you got any good or bad experiences of email and phone negotiations? Do you have other observations on this subject? Please share them here by adding your comments