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Mistrust in a Negotiation and Repairing It

4. What are some actions or tendencies that lead to mistrust and how can loss of trust be repaired?

Any number of actions or tendencies by parties may run counter to the beliefs expectations or understanding of the other party. As such, to avoid a loss of trust, the following activities should be avoided in a negotiation:

• Breaches or defections – The act of maximizing one’s own interests at the expense of another person or group. Normally, this entails acting contrary to the expectations of another party in a manner that causes the other party a loss of value.

• Miscommunication – This is a failure to communicate information is a manner readily understood by the other party. Miscommunication can result from a deficiency on the party of the transmitter or the receiver.

• Dispositional attributions – An attribution that calls into question another person’s character and intentions by citing them as the cause of a behavior or incident. For example, “halo effect” is the assumption that if people possess one socially desirable characteristic, then they also must possess other attractive traits. “Forked-tail effect” is a tendency to see people as having other undesirable characteristics in completely unrelated domains once we have identified one negative trait.

Individuals can use any number of approaches to address breaches of trust. Efforts to repair broken trust begin with determining the existence and extent of broken trust. The following is a proposed approach to remedying broken trust.

• Verbal Account – Arrange a personal meeting to discuss the conflict and any surrounding issues.

• Relationship – During a discussion, focus on the underlying relationship and identify points of contention.

• Apologize – Taking responsibility for all or some aspects of underlying relationship tension is important to disarm conflict.

• Air Grievances – Let the other party vent or express their discontent with your conduct or beliefs. Try to avoid getting defensive.

• Clarification – At this point you can test your understanding and ask for clarifying information.

• Formulate a Remedy – The parties can then begin to put together a plan to address inequities or concerns about the relationship. This may include reparations, which is a payment or transfer of value representing the perceived prior inequity or losses by the other party. This most commonly includes “structural solutions” such as creating rules, regulations, and procedures to minimize the likelihood of violation in the future.

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