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Confidence in negotiation: how to develop it and when to be wary of it?

By Michel Ghazal

The ability to give the other party the real feeling of being listened to and the ability to gain the trust of others are for me the two main qualities of a good negotiator. Much has been said about the impact of listening, particularly active listening in communication. I would like to focus here on the conditions that enable trust to have a favourable effect on the relationship between the parties involved in a negotiation. Knowing that it is always easier to act on oneself than to amend the other, my objective here is to highlight the behaviours and attitudes that enable the negotiator to show himself worthy of trust. I will develop three aspects.

How do you build a climate of trust?


Getting started: The first few minutes of a negotiation are decisive for what happens next. A great deal depends on the other party's perception of the first words exchanged and the first gestures made (the handshake, the look, etc.): verbal and non-verbal. That's why you need to prepare your introduction carefully and even take the time to rehearse it. For example, on the train, I rehearsed an introduction for a client (who was reluctant to apologise) whom I was helping to negotiate with one of his long-standing distributors with whom he had had a major dispute: "I wanted to say to you, Mr X, how sorry I am if I said anything that hurt you personally or professionally...".. From that moment on, the atmosphere and the perceptible tension changed completely.

Similarly, getting to know the person you're talking to is vital, as it enables you to find the best solutions. identifications to build on. For example, having gone to the same school, sharing a passion or a sport... Anything that is common and shared brings people closer together. Studies have shown that starting with 4 or 5 minutes of palaver on subjects other than the subject of the negotiation considerably increases the chances of reaching an agreement. But beware of the recipe. Don't talk about the Roland Garros final unless you see the L'Equipe newspaper on the desk with the photo of the winner.

Do not turn off the air conditioning: The material conditions and environment of the interview are also very important. Make sure that the person you are talking to is comfortably seated and offer him or her a drink. If it is the other person who is greeting you, accept what he or she has to offer, and above all do not reject it. Because, contrary to the practices of manipulators, putting the other person at ease makes them more receptive and open to your ideas and interests. I'll always remember those social negotiations in the West Indies when the General Manager who was conducting them decided to turn off the air conditioning. When I asked him what his aim was, he told me clearly that he wanted to make the people he was talking to feel uncomfortable. To which I replied: "And did you get what you wanted from them?".

However, it is not enough to establish a climate of trust in order to have a good working relationship at the start of an interview. Since most negotiations take place in the context of an ongoing relationship, the next step is to focus on building trust throughout the negotiation.

What can you do to prove yourself trustworthy, and what should you avoid doing to avoid arousing distrust?


Always keeping promises and commitments is certainly a golden rule of conduct. Otherwise, you run the risk of being perceived at the very least as a liar and, at worst, as someone acting in bad faith. So if external circumstances change the conditions under which your promises will be implemented, it's a good idea to be ahead of the game and tell the person you're dealing with.
Consult your partner before deciding will reinforce the feeling that you are reliable and that they can trust you. Nobody likes to be presented with a fait accompli, and being informed allows the person you are talking to to anticipate what you are going to do and to prepare themselves.
Speak clearly The more explicit and unambiguous you are about your intentions, the less risk there is of your opposite number interpreting your words in the way they want and reproaching you later as a broken promise. The more explicit you are about your intentions, the less risk you run of your opposite number interpreting your words in the way they wish and reproaching you later as a broken promise. Unfortunately, this can only have a negative impact on your future relationship.

The 3 pitfalls to avoid when it comes to trust


The first stumbling block concerns the feeling of confidence that we experience. Excessive self-confidence has the primary consequence of neglecting to prepare. Similarly, having little confidence when approaching a negotiation leads us to give up preparing. But what gives you power in a negotiation is good preparation.

The second pitfall relates to the trust we place in others. Blind trust arouses temptation in others and can lead them to abuse our credulity. Conversely, unjustified distrust out of fear of risk reduces the other person's sense of responsibility and leads them to stop caring. As a result, this can exacerbate the risk we are trying to protect ourselves from. Why pay attention when crossing the road if the parent always does it for the child? Similarly, being deprived of deserved trust can be hurtful and discouraging.

The third pitfall is the importance of trust in the conclusion of the agreement. If, for fear of upsetting the relationship, I refuse to give myself the opportunity to check this or that clause because the other person says "So, you don't trust me! The only answer that will allow us to protect our interests without risking being tricked is: "It's not a question of trust". At the risk of shocking some people, any agreement based solely on trust is likely to be a bad agreement for you.

In conclusion

Trust cannot be decreedIt is built. The negotiator who forges the reputation that he is trustworthy will reap great benefits. So always strive to be completely trustworthy, but not blindly trusting. It takes a long time to build trust. A single lapse can destroy it. So be careful not to squander this precious capital, which is indispensable in ongoing relationships.

See also

the European Negotiation Centre, quoted in Le Point.

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