“Let’s ask them those questions by e-mail!” said my client.
Ahead of some complex company sale negotiations, we wanted to discover what a potential investor really thought about some aspects of my client’s business. We knew it would be very hard to verify their answers.
“Let’s not do that,” I suggested. “Let’s ask these questions during our meeting next week, face to face. We should not be forcing them to lie.”
“Forcing them to lie?” my client asked. “How come?”
In a study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, the researchers Zimbler and Feldman investigated the frequency of deception under different conditions: face to face or using computer-mediated technologies. The results showed increased deception in the computer-assisted scenario, with most ‘lies’ found in e-mail messages.
Think about how differently you might answer a difficult question, if asked over e-mail, during a telephone conversation or during a face-to-face meeting. The conditions are very different, and chances are all three of your answers will be different, too.
On the phone or face to face you do not have time to think. In the face-to-face scenario you get eye contact.
Eye contact is key: it’s important in negotiations for all parties at the negotiating table. It helps to get more truthful answers, and when used properly it is an effective tool for influencing others.
We did not send that e-mail.
To purchase the paper by Zimbler and Feldman, Liar, Liar, Hard Drive on Fire: How Media Context Affects Lying Behavior, please click here.
Oldie of the week: Johnny Nash – I Can See Clearly Now (1974)