Simply Building Trust

Simply Building Trust

In the midst of an intense negotiation, you need to build trust with your counterpart so you can align your interests and increase the likelihood that they will honour their commitments.

A powerful way to establish trust is to employ one of the mind’s most basic mechanisms for determining loyalty: the perception of similarity. If you can make someone feel a link with you, their empathy for and willingness to cooperate with you will increase.

During an experiment to prove this participants were brought into the lab individually for what they believed was an experiment on music perception. They put on earphones and sat across from an actor who was working with the team. They were asked to tap the sensor in front of them in time to the beats they heard over their earphones. The beats were designed so that some participants could see their hands tapping in synchrony with the actor (who had his own sensors and headphones), while others would see random, unsynchronized tapping.

After the tapping, a situation was designed where the participants would see the actor get stuck while completing an onerous task from which they themselves were excused. They were offered the opportunity to help the actor if they wanted.

Only 18% decided to come to the aid of the actor when they hadn’t been synchronised. But for those who had tapped in synchrony, the number who helped jumped to 50%. Those who tapped in synch believed they shared more in common with the actor than those who didn’t, even though they had never said a word to the actor.

Try it in your next negotiation. Find and emphasise something that will cause the other person to see a link between the two of you, which will form a sense of affiliation and from that sense of affiliation comes a greater likelihood of trustworthy behaviour.

What mechanisms do you use to establish trust in a business relationship?

Adapted from an article by David DeSteno, Harvard Business Review

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