For most of our day-to-day communication, we rely on the written word to replace much of the in-person and telephone conversations we relied on in the past. There’s no doubt there are instances where the intended meaning of what we write is misinterpreted by the person on the receiving end, which could have been avoided in person. But in certain situations, such where there are disputing Parties, there are many benefits to using the written word online.
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 does your blood boil over 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 most 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 inflection in someone’s voice can set off negative emotions that distort the substance of the message – reason and logic are lost to emotion.
The following are some of the benefits that Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) has over traditional in-person dispute resolution:
- Online communication is often less emotional since negative verbal and visual communication is absent; it’s 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 manner possible. There is time to consider what the other Party’s position is and to prepare a reasoned response.
- It eliminates the difficulties created by physical distance, other travel barriers, and scheduling conflicts.
- There’s a written record of what has been discussed making it difficult to deny what was said.