The Secrets To Building Trust During A Negotiation

To get what you want out of a negotiation, trust must exist
To get what you want out of a negotiation, trust must exist Image Credit: Neal Sanche

Let’s face it, trust in negotiations may develop naturally over time; however, we rarely have the luxury of letting nature take its course. Thus it sometimes seems easiest for us to play it safe with cautious deals involving few tradeoffs, few concessions, and little information sharing between parties. But avoiding risk during a negotiation can mean missing out on significant opportunities. For this reason, fostering trust on the fly using your negotiation styles and negotiating techniques is a critical skill for negotiators. The first step to inspiring trust in negotiations is to for you to demonstrate trustworthiness. The big question is just exactly how do you go about doing this?

Speak The Other Side’s Language To Gain Trust

It’s important for a negotiator to speak the other side’s language. This principle goes beyond understanding both technical terms and lingo. It also means catching the nuances and cultural implications behind what they are saying, and noticing how the other side uses their words to convey ideas. If you take the time to understand the other party’s history, culture, and perspective, you send the message that you’re committed to both the negotiation and to the relationship – an integral step in trust building. This fluency also signals your readiness to follow through on your negotiated settlement.

Guess what – in a negotiation your reputation precedes you. A bad reputation can kill a deal from the start, while a great one can help transcend an impasse. Successful negotiators realize that their reputation is not just a backdrop but a tool. So what can you do to make your reputation a positive factor in negotiation? One way that you can do this is to provide references from mutually trusted third parties that vouch for your character and competence. If appropriate, a third party can communicate with the other side prior to the negotiation or even serve as an intermediary during it. You can also offer other forms of evidence of your past success in similar relationships.

Make Dependence a Factor In Order to Gain Trust

It turns out that the more dependent you are on someone, the more willing you’ll be to have trust in negotiations. We tend to cope with the psychological discomfort associated with dependence during a negotiation by believing in the trustworthiness of those upon whom we depend. In negotiation, when both parties believe that they need each other to achieve their individual goals and that other options are limited, trust between both parties will increase. As a negotiator, you can trigger this trust-building process by highlighting the benefits that you can provide and by emphasizing the damage that could result from an impasse. This technique can be particularly useful when a stalemate looms large and alternatives to agreement appear to be painful or costly. In such situations, a negotiator who senses he has no other recourse may come to trust the other side.

Make Unilateral Concessions To Gain Trust

Negotiations when done with strangers and enemies tend to be calculative, with both parties carefully measuring what they’re gaining with each concession made by the other side. By contrast, negotiations that are based on long-term relationships are usually less focused on tallying up wins and losses. A carefully crafted unilateral concession by you can work wonders for trust, for it conveys to the other party that you consider the relationship to be a friendly one, with the potential for mutual gain and trust over time.

Labeling Your Concessions To Gain Trust

We all know that actions may speak louder than words, but actions in negotiation are ambiguous. Concessions are only influential in building trust or encouraging reciprocity if the receiver views them as what they are – concessions. Negotiators are often motivated to discount and devalue each other’s concessions and contributions because doing so relieves them of the obligation to reciprocate. As a result, many concessions may go unnoticed or unacknowledged. This may lead to confusion, resentment, or even an escalation of hardball tactics and unaccommodating behavior by the slighted negotiator.

Explain Your Demands To Gain Trust

When you start a negotiation with someone new, you can expect that they will assume the worst about your motives and intentions. If you hold out for a better offer, they might think that you’re greedy, that you like to see them suffer, or that you’re simply unfair. The reality is that you are representing a constituency that will not accept the deal on the table, or budget constraints might be forcing you to stand firm. Psychologists have found that negotiators tend to view themselves in the best possible light and others in a much less positive light – especially those with whom they’re in conflict. For this reason, it’s especially important that you make a strong case for your moves in a negotiation and provide the other side with explanations of your demands.

What All Of This Means For You

Believing that the other side is competent and has character allows you to take risks that are necessary to achieve negotiated outcomes, and to implement agreements in ever-changing social, economic, and political environments. When profit, security, or even peace depend upon the motives and actions of another negotiator, trust in negotiations becomes essential. Fortunately, as these strategies that we’ve discussed suggest, negotiators can build the trust that’s necessary for a principled negotiation in order to yield maximum joint gain.

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

Question For You: Is there any way to measure the amount of trust that is currently in a negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

One of the key things that negotiators need to understand is that how we start a negotiation can play a big role in how the negotiation turns out. What this means is that we need to use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to convince the other side to see things our way from the start. Most of us know that the anchoring technique is a powerful way to make this happen. However, what we many not know is how best to use this negotiating tool.