Don't E-Disagree

Here's what Don Lents, chairman of Bryan Cave, has to say about electronic communications versus business travel:

“You should never engage in a disagreement electronically,” Mr. Lents said he advises [lawyers at his firm]. “If you are going to disagree with somebody, you certainly don’t want to do it by e-mail, and if possible you don’t even want to do it by phone. You want to do it face to face.”


“That’s an important message that does not necessarily come naturally to a lot of younger people today who have grown up with so much of their communications being by texting and e-mail,” he said. “I tell our younger lawyers, if you think you are going to have a difficult interaction with a colleague or a client, if you can do it face to face that’s better, because you can read the body language and other social signals.”

“In texting and e-mails or even videoconferencing, you can’t always gauge the reaction and sometimes things can have a tendency to be misunderstood, or they can ratchet up to a level of seriousness that you didn’t anticipate,” he added. “In person, you see that somebody reacting in a way that you didn’t expect. Then you can stop and figure out what’s going on, and adapt.”

Genchi genbutsu in action. Human interaction is so complex and dependent on subtle cues. Especially when two people disagree. I can't think of a context where it is more important to go see for yourself to thoroughly understand the situation.

D. Mark Jackson

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