There are four assessments you want to make as you go about the Exchange Stage: trustworthiness, competency, likeability, and alignment of interests. The Exchange Stage is the valuable time when each party begins to make critical judgment calls about whether to enter into bargaining, and if so, with what strategy.
How do you assess trustworthiness? One effective strategy is to ask questions to which you already know the answer. If you get a correct answer, you get an indication that the other side is trustworthy. If you get an incorrect answer, there are three possibilities:
- They have incorrect information or are incompetent.
- They're deceitful.
- They don't understand the question.
Ask the same question three more times in different ways and assess the answers you get to determine trustworthiness. If you determine they are deceitful, you probably don't want to proceed to bargaining, and do want to consider implementation of your BATNA.
To assess competency you ask yourself, "Do they know what they are talking about?" The same approach used to assess trustworthiness can be used to assess technical or professional competency as well. Ask them a question to which you know the answer and see if they are competent in the field.
Do you like working with this person, firm or company? The Exchange Stage is when friendship building begins. It's important that you do your "social homework" so you know who you are dealing with and try to connect at a deeper level. Remember, friends try to make things work for the benefit of both parties and typically don't sue each other.
4. Alignment of interests
Are your interests aligned with theirs? Although it may seem a bit premature, your assessment of whether interests are aligned should begin at this early stage to get a sense of whether you will be able to align goals in the next stage – Bargaining.
- The other side is assessing the same things about you – your trustworthiness, competency, authority, likeability and alignment of interests.