Nurturing relationships is an essential aspect of the negotiation process, and these relationships are built on trust.
When time is money, it can be tempting to push through your demands to the potential detriment of the relationship. Trust is usually earned over a period of time – time that negotiators often don’t have to spare. So, how can you establish trust in real-time?
Here we’ll talk about how to build trust in negotiations, so you can develop a rapport and foster a long-term relationship that can lead to ongoing collaboration.
Research Before Negotiating
The first step of any negotiation is preparation, which includes research. The same goes for when you’re considering how to build trust in negotiations.
Before you even step into the negotiating room, you need to make sure you’re speaking the same language as your counterpart. Learn the technical jargon and what makes them tick, and don’t forget about their culture and perspective, particularly if you’re engaging in a cross-cultural negotiation. Communication styles vary between cultures, and you want to avoid damaging trust between you with a cultural misunderstanding.
Not knowing the other party’s history or understanding their business and needs can make you appear uncommitted to the process and in the worst case, unprofessional. Nobody expects you to “know-it-all” and it’s perfectly acceptable to ask questions (in fact, encouraged to build rapport!). Just make sure you’re not asking questions about the basics.
Explain Your Demands
Throwing a list of demands at a brand-new partner can make you appear unreasonable.
You may be innocently providing your them with a wishlist in the spirit of transparency, but they won’t know that.
If your negotiating party isn’t familiar with you and don’t understand the “why” behind your demands, they may just view you as greedy or unfair. Right or wrong, we tend to expect the worst of others, especially when we’re in a potential conflict situation.
Instead, explain the rationale behind the offer so your interlocutor can empathise with you and can trust that you’re being open and honest.
Build Honest Rapport
Building rapport, that feeling of connection is extremely important in the negotiation process. When you’ve got a good rapport with who you are negotiating with, communication is easier and you’re both more prepared to collaborate, which is why the art of small talk, active listening and empathy are often the core elements of a negotiation skills training course.
Demonstrating empathy for your partner shows that you’re making an effort to understand them. Active listening is an effective tool for showing your fellow negotiator that you care about what they’re saying or feeling. Breaking the ice with casual conversation about the weather, travel, or hobbies can keep you at the forefront of your negotiating partner’s mind. People tend to trust others with common interests.
Showing the other side that you’re genuinely interested in finding a mutually-beneficial solution enhances the trust between you.
Be Fully Transparent
The most trustworthy leaders are transparent. They’ll deliver the whole message, even if it’s difficult, which inspires trust. The same goes for skilled negotiators.
Withholding information or misleading the other side isn’t a good look for any negotiation team. The best negotiations lead to long-term relationships and you cannot build a relationship on misgivings. You need to believe that you’re dealing with a partner who is fair, open and honest.
Yes, there will be times when information is not in the public domain and you simply can’t share. However, even explaining why information cannot be shared can earn you a degree of respect.
Often, the negotiation process can be long and drawn out. It can be a costly business and ultimately, you want to seal the deal and move on.
All of your hard-earned trust will evaporate if you apply pressure on your co-negotiator to agree before they’re completely satisfied that it’s a win-win for both of you. Exercise patience and you’ll be rewarded with a partner who’s not only content that they got the best possible outcome this time but one that’s willing to work with you, again.
Follow Through on Agreements
Your word is your honour.
When you’re thinking about how to build trust in negotiations, you should be going beyond the initial negotiation phase. Doing your homework, building rapport and explaining your demands will only get you so far if you don’t follow through on your commitments.
If you’ve promised to send a document by a certain time, do it. If you agreed to a concession, uphold it. Failure to do so puts your integrity into question, damaging both your trustworthiness and your reputation.
So, follow through on your agreements so your interlocutor knows they’ve made the right choice in choosing to work with you.