In the spirit of Cyberweek, the annual conference on online negotiation and dispute resolution currently underway

I’ve posted a new book chapter I wrote on Negotiating via Email, which describes the major process and communication challenges this medium poses – and some of the ways in which email can be used in a very beneficial manner, allowing negotiators to overcome challenges often encountered face-to-face. Remember – no medium or venue is ‘bad’ – it’s a matter of fitting the forum to the fuss in the sense of choosing the right medium to best conduct the interaction through. Check it out at (click ‘One-Click Downloading’ at the top to see or download the full text of the chapter).

Another paper, which discusses some of these issues from a teacher’s perspective (in other words, how can we best teach email negotiation), is You've Got Agreement: Negoti@ting Via Email, which I wrote together with fabulous co-authors Anita Bhappu, Jennifer Brown, Kim Kovach and Andrea Schneider. You can access the full chapter at

Thoughts, comments, anything? Talk to me.




Views: 138

Comment by Skip Cole on October 27, 2011 at 1:44pm

Hi Noam,

Thanks for this paper! I will reference it the next time involved in an email negotiation. 

One thing I think might be interesting to look at is how people pick their medium that is most advantageous to them. For example, I would rather negotiate a car by email - so I can't get pressured or anything. But I would guess that most car salesman would rather have me come into their office. In their territory they can do use all of their normal tactics ('let me go check with my manager,' etc.)

Knowing which medium to pick may be half the battle :-)



Comment by Noam Ebner on October 27, 2011 at 2:11pm

Hi Skip -

Great comment, I think medium choice is one of the most critical process choices we make - and we usually skim past it. Good luck in your own negotiations!

There are some e-platforms out there which are suggesting some e-changes might be up ahead for the automative business, much as there are for the real-estate business. I'll try to blog about some of them in the near future, so you can take a look and tell me what you think.

Comment by John C. Turley on October 28, 2011 at 2:40pm



I read your article on email as a negotiation medium.  I enjoyed it since it brought back memories from my corporate days.  When I worked for Sun Microsystems, email was our medium for internal communications, especially since we were an Internet thought leader and innovator.  Most of our global customers were high tech Fortune 100 Companies, so email was the accepted means for external communications as well.

Most of our negotiations involved contracts with our customers, sales proposals, webinars, white papers, confirming engagement details, pricing et al.  We had established communications rules in place that were approved by our legal department.  In fact, our legal; counsel would meet with our teams semi-annually to update us on the latest laws and implications of statements committed to email. These sessions were conducted in person, via webinars or email. The main point that was consistently re-enforced with us was not to write anything that could result in either a law suit or a breach of ethics.  Further, "never commit anything to email that might wind up on the front page of The New York Times."

In a peer to peer relationship where both parties are comfortable with email as the medium of exchange, the negotiations usually run smoothly in terms of the email content.  This is not to say that the substance of the negotiation is without contention or disagreement.  Sarcasm occurs in a client/vendor email dialogue on both sides.  Millions of dollars in contractual business is conducted regularly at the corporate level via email.  On a person to person basis, a pure email exchange without any video inter action will become more conventional as people use the medium more frequently.  Certainly the younger generations will embrace email readily because of their familiarity with digital dialogue and all forms of devices.  It seems to me that the important thing is to establish ground rules before the commencement of email ADR.

If the participants are conversant with email, I can visualize the negotiations proceeding rapidly even if the issues are relatively complex.  Email is simply another medium of commercial and personal exchange that will take its place as a means to conduct negotiations within a segment that is email literate.  Many will not care about the personal interaction or the elements associated with face to face mediation.  If the parties have met previously, there is less need for personal interaction but more for a focus on attending to the business at hand.



Comment by Noam Ebner on October 29, 2011 at 5:56am

Thanks for all that John - always great to hear from you and (as usual)  I agree with your predictions to a large extent.

I'm seeing more and more mediators incorporating mediating-at-a-distance into their mediation practice, and most of these individual mediators (as opposed to larger ODR 'service provider' groups/crporations) don't use dedicated e-mediation platforms, but rather familiar, day-to-day, communications tools - email and Skype. So far, this seems to break down about 50/50. I think we;ll see clear trends developing over the next couple of years.

P.S. When I used to offer training/guidance on e-negotiation to corporate clients, I often heard the response 'oh, we do that in-house'. whan I would ask who conducted it, it was always 'Oh, Legal handles it'. As you wrote - the lawyers would come in and dedicate a few hours to training people into avoiding the pitfalls of liability, commitment, etc. in email interactions. Nothing actually useful for negotiation, of course (perhaps the contrary!). Nowadays, although I don't have much time for such training, most people get the distinction...

Comment by John C. Turley on October 29, 2011 at 1:14pm


You are right on target regarding the corporate legal department.  The lawyers were concerned about protecting the firm and heading off more work for them at the pass.  Negotiation theory and practice were taught by a separate firm or under the guidance of management. The negotiators rarely touched on the legal issues, so you had two and sometimes more than 3 or 4 separate groups with distinct interests and position guiding your client negotiations.  The same was true on the customer side.  In the end, it was up to the individual to absorb the good counsel and get the job done without being sued or breaching ethics.


Comment by Noam Ebner on October 30, 2011 at 9:24am

Gotta love that corporate tightrope! This isn't the first time you've reminded me of the pleasures of being self-employed. I wouldn't have given that up for anything but Werner :-)


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