Trust in a negotiation?

Cite this article as:"Trust in a negotiation?," in The Business Professor, updated October 22, 2017, last accessed July 4, 2020,

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What contributes to the presence of trust in a negotiation relationship?

There are three factors that contribute to the level of trust one negotiator may have for another:

• Disposition – the individual’s chronic disposition toward trust;

• Context – the situational factors (context surrounding or giving rise to the dispute or conflict); and

• Relationship – the history or prior relationship between the parties.

Likewise, there are 3 types of trust present in any relationship.

• Deterrence-based trust – This is a type of trust that sustains behavioral consistency through threats or promises of consequences that will result if consistency is not maintained. This usually results from the development and maintenance of systems. Deference-based trust relates closely to concepts of justice and fairness. Justice can take several forms. “Distributive justice” is about the distribution of outcomes. “Procedural justice” is about the process of determining outcomes. “Interactional justice” is about how parties treat each other in one-to-one relationships. “Systemic justice” is about how organizations appear to treat groups of individuals and the norms that develop for how they should be treated. Deference-based trust depends upon repercussions if a fair or just process is not followed or result is not reached. A concept related to deterrence-based trust is “reactance” (or backfiring effect). This is a psychological principle stating that people often have a negative reaction when they perceive that their freedom is being limited or their behavior is being controlled; hence, they will engage in the opposite of the behaviors that surveillance is either attempting to ensure or control.

• Knowledge-based trust – A type of trust grounded in behavioral predictability, occurring when a person has enough information about others to understand them and accurately predict their behavior. As such a person’s reputation has an effect on trust in a relationship. Reputation is a “perceptual identity, reflective of the combination of salient personal characteristics and accomplishments, demonstrated behavior and intended images preserved over time, as observed directly and/or as reported from secondary sources”. Reputation tends to be perceptual and highly subjective in nature. An individual can have a number of different, even conflicting, reputations because she may act quite differently in different situations. Reputations are shaped by past behavior and influenced by an individual’s personal characteristics and accomplishments. Reputations develop over time; once developed, they are hard to change. Early experiences with another shape our views, which we bring to new situations in the form of expectations. These expectations are then confirmed or disconfirmed by the next set of experiences. One’s reputation can shape the emotional states and expectations of others.

• Identification-based trust – A type of trust that develops based on empathy for another person’s desires, values, and intentions. This is closely related to knowledge-based trust, but it entails a level of personalization of interests. It often derives from a perceived commonality of goals.

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