“How Much Value Should You Place In Trust To Win More Negotiations” – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“Trust can be the glue that bonds agreements. It is also what dissolves them by its absence.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)

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“How Much Value Should You Place In Trust

To Win More Negotiations”

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.

During negotiation, how much value do you place on trust? And, do you consider the value of the trust factor before negotiating?

The negotiation was tough. But the parties hammered out a deal, even though they were at war – physical war! The grain needed by some foreign countries to stave off starvation would finally be allowed to depart the port.

Then, the next day, one of the negotiation parties fired rockets into the port the grain was due to depart. The offending party broke the trust. And trust is a significant factor that foretells how a negotiation will flow and its outcome, to some degree.

Continue, and you will discover how trust can increase your negotiation outcomes and why it can lead to a disadvantage during your talks. You will also learn how to deal with those you do not trust.

Word Choices – How Trust Can Become Enhanced or Damaged in Negotiation

One thing that enhances or detracts from the trust factor is the levels of abstractions infused into a negotiation by its participants. Levels of abstractions are negotiators’ communication styles to describe their position or offers.

For example, suppose a negotiator stated that they would assist in making sure their party abided by any agreement versus that person guaranteeing their side would abide by an agreement. The word difference of assist versus guarantee could impact the trust factor more than the other. The degree would depend on the negotiating parties and their propensity for one term over another.

So, be very mindful of the word choices you use when negotiating. Use similar words and phrases your counterpart uses to enhance the trust factor. That will make you sound more like them to themselves, which will tend to endear you to them.    

Weighing The Cost of Trust

When weighing the cost of trust, consider what you are evaluating. Sometimes, you may think the person you are negotiating with is trustworthy while not verifying the degree you can trust them. In so doing, you may be creating future problems for yourself. How so, you ask?

Consider you have an agreement with a negotiator in which you placed your trust. Then, when it came time to consummate the deal, your trusted partner flakes out – they do not deliver.

On the other hand, flip the script. You are the one that has doubts about the covenants of the agreement. But you have extended your trust. Now, what do you do – you do not like the deal, but you do not want to go back on your word.

The solution – weigh what you are considering before you extend or accept trust in either direction. If you are willing to stick to an agreement, at all cost, due to whatever mitigating circumstances you may be weighing, forge on. But if you have doubts about any aspects of the trust factor’s implication on the deal, do not extend or accept it without further contemplation.

Dealing With Untrustworthy Negotiators

In the opening of this episode, we discussed the negotiation between warring parties and their agreement to release grain. One day after the arrangement, you will recall that one party fired missiles into the port from which the grain was due to ship.

So, how might you deal with a negotiator you suspect may not be trustworthy?

1. First, assess their motives. In some negotiation situations, a negotiator will attempt to psychologically damage your negotiation center of focus by appearing trustworthy and then baffling you by being deceitful. If you have evidence or suspect you are dealing with this type of negotiator, seek leverage from outside sources to ensure they will maintain their obligation.

2. To the degree you can, be forthright and open when negotiating. That is to say, try not to give your opposition an excuse to become dishonest (e.g., I asked you about ‘x’ and you would not give me an answer).

Suppose that was the rebuttal of your counterpart. In that case, you might state that you cannot disclose the requested information; cite your higher authority as the reason. And as an aside, always have a higher authority to refer to in your negotiation; that will help you avoid situations that might lead to you appearing to lack trust.

3. In a dire negotiation, if you have to be hard-hitting due to your opponent’s lack of trustworthiness, insert a poison pill into the negotiation agreement. Use this negotiation tactic cautiously less the negotiation creeps closer to the complete loss of deference.

An example that a poison pill might state is if the opposition attempts to destroy you, that will be their fate, too. Mutual destruction has deterred negotiators from not abiding by high-stakes negotiation agreements. Seek to use such a ploy when dealing with those you suspect as not bearing witness to trust.  


Dealing with deceptive negotiators during negotiation who lack trust can be daunting. But that does not have to be your negotiation reality. You can lessen your chances of being foiled by the antics of those that are not trustworthy if you adopt what I have discussed. To do so will also insulate you from those that lack trust in other aspects of your life. And everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating! 

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