Let's face it, the days of the spoken word have all but disappeared. With the popularity of email, text messaging, instant chat apps, and exchanging posts on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin we have little need for face-to-face communication.
No doubt there is a greater likelihood of a misunderstanding once in a while when visual cues are absent. But in many situations the benefits of using the written word outweigh the few disadvantages. One such situation is a contentious dispute.
How many times have you been in an argument or dispute with someone where simply looking at the person makes your blood boil? How often have you had visions of bloody murder when that person opens their mouth to speak?
Anthropologist Ray Birdwhistell found that over 65 percent of communication is nonverbal. Each gesture or movement can convey meaning and trigger different emotions in others. This is useful in some circumstances, but given a dispute between Parties who are at odds with one another, it can be destructive. Facial expressions, the roll of the eyes, crossing of arms, shrugging of shoulders, or the inflection in one's voice can set off negative emotions that distort the substance of the message - reason and logic are lost to emotion.
Text-based Online Dispute Resolution provides the following benefits over traditional in-person dispute resolution:
- Online communication is often less emotionally-charged since negative verbal and visual communication is absent; it's therefore easier to focus on the facts and a reasoned resolution.
- People are less likely to be intimidated by the opposing Party when they're not physically present due to the absence of visual and vocal tools of intimidation.
- It levels the playing field for those who are less skilled at expressing themselves verbally, suffer from stage fright, or who have speech impediments that cause them to be self-conscious. People also are less likely to be caught off-guard or become flustered in the heat of the moment.
- It provides the Parties time to organize their thoughts and state their case in the clearest and most concise manner possible. There is time to consider what the other Party's position is and to prepare a reasoned response.
- There's an accurate written record of what has been discussed that can prove useful when memories start to fade - for some this is more of an issue than for others.
- Travel time is eliminated, costs are reduced and scheduling is typically much easier.