What Role Does Trust Play In A Negotiation?

Trust is what can make a deal happen
Trust is what can make a deal happen
Image Credit: Ron

If there is one thing that all negotiators know and understand is that in order to be able to reach a deal with the other side, you first have to be able to trust them. We also understand that during the course of a negotiation, trust is something that may develop naturally over time. However, sometimes we can’t wait that long. If we don’t trust the other side, we can still make safe deals with them. These types of deals will involve using our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to make few concessions, few tradeoffs, and we won’t share very much information with the other side. However, deals like this may mean that we are missing out on big opportunities. What we need to do is to find way to build trust on the fly…

Build Trust By Speaking Their Language

If you want to build trust with the other side, then the first step in making this happen is that you are going to have to learn how to speak their language. A lot of negotiators view this type of language learning as being a simple case of mastering the lingo and technical terms that the other side uses. It turns out that it goes much further. As a negotiator you are going to have to take the time to study how the other side talks. You’ll want to pick up on the cultural implications of what they are saying and nuances of the words that they use. You need to understand how they use words to convey their ideas. Showing the other side that you’ve taken the time to understand their perspective, culture, and even their history shows them that you are committed to the negotiation.

Mastering the other side’s language is hard to do. What this means for you is that you will undoubtedly make mistakes during the negotiation as you try to use their language with them. This means that when the negotiations are starting, you need to tell the other side that you have taken the time to understand how they choose to communicate. However, since you and they will both be learning during the negotiation, mistakes may happen. Ask that both sides view such mistakes as part of the process and they when they happen both sides work even harder to better understand each other.

Build Trust By Using Your Reputation

Before your next negotiation starts, the other side will feel as though they already know you. Your reputation will have proceeded you. If you have a bad reputation, then the deal may be lost before the negotiations even start. If you have a good reputation, then you may be able to move beyond impossible impasses. Good negotiators understand that their reputation is not just decoration, but rather that it is a tool.

When you are negotiating, you can use your reputation as a part of the negotiation. You have the ability to provide the other side with references from third parties that both sides trust in order to support your competence. You can have outsiders talk with the other side before the negotiations start. Your goal has to be to use your reputation to show the other side that you have been successful in similar negotiations with other parties.

Build Trust By Making Dependence a Factor

One powerful effect of engaging in a negotiation is that you can make the other side become more and more dependent on you. As you cause this to occur, they will become more willing to trust you as a part of the negotiations. When we become dependent on someone, it makes us feel uncomfortable. We deal with this feeling of being uncomfortable by starting to believe that in the trustworthiness of the people that we are dealing with. If in a negotiation, both sides start to believe that they need each other in order to get what they want and that their other options to this negotiation are limited, then the trust between both parties will start to increase.

In order to build on this effect, you can take steps to start to create trust in the other side by taking the time to highlight all of the benefits that creating a deal with you can bring to them. You can also point out what they might lose if a deal can’t be reached. If the other side starts to believe that they don’t have any other recourse than to reach a deal with you, they may start to trust you even more.

What All Of This Means For You

In order to be able to reach a deal with the other side on a significant deal, then both sides are going to have to find a way to trust each other. Trust is not something that just happens, it has to be carefully built over time. Good negotiators know what they have to do in order to move this process along.

In order to start to develop a sense of trust in the other side, you are going to have to take the time to learn how to speak their language. This goes beyond learning their lingo and technical terms. You want to understand how they use words and what their real meanings are. Mistakes will happen when you try to speak to them using their own language. Start the negotiations out by telling everyone that each mistake is really a learning opportunity. Every negotiator comes to a principled negotiation with a reputation. If it’s a bad reputation, it’s going to hurt your chances of reaching a deal. If it’s a good reputation, it’s going to help you. Use your reputation to get third party sources to vouch for your ability to negotiate deals like this. The more that you can make the other side depend on you, the greater their level of trust in you will be. As they see that they have fewer and fewer alternatives, their trust in you will grow.

Deals don’t just happen in negotiations. Deals come about because both sides of the table have found ways to trust that the other side will do what they are promising to do. As negotiators we need to be aware of this. We also have to take steps to allow the other side to more quickly start to trust us. If we can win their trust, then we’re going to be able to reach the deal with them that we are looking for.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: What things can the other side do that will allow you to trust them more?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So here’s a question for you negotiator: just exactly what is a mutually beneficial agreement? Sure, we all think that we’d like to be able to use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to reach one of these in our next negotiation, but would we recognize it if we saw it? One way to define this is to view a mutually beneficial agreement as being one in which each side grabs as much as it can from a finite pot of resources. Hopefully you don’t view it this way. A much better way to view it is as competitive value-claiming with collaborative value creation. Now the big question becomes just exactly how to go about doing this.