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CONTRIBUTOR / Jeanne Brett


Part 1 / Signaling Trustworthiness (0:00)
Establishing trust in negotiations depends on each side showing an element of vulnerability. In cultures defined by a high level of trust, becoming vulnerable by revealing what is important happens quickly and creates reciprocity allowing an agreement to emerge based on each partner’s priorities.

Part 2 / Positive Outcomes with More Trust & Vulnerability (1:30)
Two people arguing over an orange, for example, might want something very different from it—the rind or the juice. In negotiations, both parties can often have what they want as long as there is sufficient trust to reveal their true interests and underlying motivations.


BUMPER: Signaling Trustworthiness

I’d like to distinguish between swift trust and slow trust. Swift trust means I don’t know you — I may not even know you by reputation — but I assume you’re a professional. I assume that you are benevolent; I assume that you’re trustworthy.

And I signal that information to you. And then you come back to me, usually, by reinforcing me and indicating that, yeah, I made the right call about you. It’s hard to not fulfill someone’s trusting expectations of you.

In slow trust, there’s no assumption that the other party is trustworthy. In slow trust, it’s slow; it takes time to develop trust. What that means is, people have to have experience with each other, gain familiarity with each other and have that experience where I make myself a little vulnerable and you don’t take advantage of me.

Slow trust builds slowly over time. Swift trust happens quickly. One is just more efficient than the other in negotiations. So, it’s understandable that many people are reluctant to take the swift-trust risk.

BUMPER: Positive Outcomes with More Trust & Vulnerability

Two sisters are both in the kitchen; they’re both cooking; and they have need for an orange. And they only have one orange.

So, the sisters get into a fight: “I want the orange.” “No, I want the orange; you can’t have the orange.” And there’s no solution because half an orange is not going to satisfy either sister.

They get nowhere until they take that single issue of who gets the orange and say, “Why do you want the orange?” And then they learn that one sister wants the orange for the rind, and the other sister wants the orange for the juice.

Now, if they had just taken half an orange, neither one of their recipes would have come out, but by finding out why they wanted the orange — those are those interests in negotiations — they were able to both win, if you will.

What happens is, in negotiations — even if it looks like it’s a single issue, or many negotiations are multi-issue — what you have to understand is where the other party is coming from, what’s motivating the other party and what’s most important to the other party.

You’re not going to get everything you want in negotiation; you’re too interdependent for that. But if you find out what’s more important to the other party that’s somewhat less important to you, then you can begin to make a trade-off.

So, why do negotiators need to trust? Because as soon as I start revealing what’s important to me, you have the opportunity to take advantage of me.

So, I have to trust you that you won’t take advantage of me, which means we coach negotiators to share a little information about interests and priorities and ask for some information — comparable information — in return.

And then you can get this reciprocity going — sharing information — understand where the other party is coming from, make those trade-offs and build high-quality agreements, like the two sisters and the orange.