Negotiation Blog

Top 10 Ways to Destroy Trust in Negotiations

By Thomas Wood

Trust is the underpinning of all successful negotiation results. It takes sincerity and a great deal of time invested in order to build trust among the parties. But to destroy trust in our negotiations? That takes only a minute.

I have spent the last 6 months tweeting about the ways negotiators accidently destroy trust, and thereby damage the chances of success in their negotiations. It's time to pull those tweets together and add some context.

Let's start really broad. Negotiations are conversations.

  • Conversations are between negotiators -- people, not companies.
  • The negotiators have individual egos, and conflicting but overlapping goals to achieve for their companies.
  • Achievement results from planned strategies that address the parties’ interests -- Why you want what it is that you want.

Simple enough. So why are trusting relationships so important to negotiations?

At some point people have to disclose sensitive info about their interests. If you are not willing to share your interests at some point, win-win is impossible. When people don’t share their interests with you, they don’t trust you (they worry that you will use the information against them).

Affiliating (connecting on a human level) creates positive emotions that allow you and your counterpart to trust, be creative and take risks with ideas. Affiliating is one way to build trust. There are many other ways to build trust as well. Unfortunately, there are just as many if not more ways to destroy trust. And we don’t always realize that our actions may destroy trust.

Here are the top 10 ways negotiators destroy trust:

#1: Not doing what you said you would do.

#2: Opening with an unreasonable and unjustifiable offer.

#3: Over using tactics: surprise attack, bluffing, good-guy/bad-guy, ultimatums, end-runs, artificial deadlines...

#4: Failure to acknowledge problems or apologize (sincerely and effectively).

#5: Not Listening.

#6: Exaggerating and lying.

#7: Showing no empathy or desire to address your counterparts interests.

#8: Not moving off an opening offer for no reason.

#9: Deliberately omitting information that does harm.

#10: Conducting business in a way that your negotiation counterpart considers unethical.

This is a fundamental that master negotiators know at their core

  • Trust is critical. We build trust as we develop relationships with our customer, suppliers, colleagues, and partners.
  • Use of the collaborative negotiation process is one way to build trust because people feel that their true needs get addressed.
  • It takes a lot of investment to build trust. And only a second to destroy it.

Negotiating Tip

Summarize early and often.


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