Keys to Negotiation 13: Relationships, Trustworthiness, and Personal Bonds

We often say of negotiation that it is important to establish personal connections. Sometimes this is interpreted to mean that we should get to know the other stakeholders, maybe through social interactions. Social interactions are certainly important, but recent research suggests that one vital key to successful negotiation is the foundation of personal bonds. This implies more than meeting and greeting.

Personal bonds may also be thought of as “integrative ties.” Integrative ties include those connections made through shared social, political, and economic experiences and values. The author of a report in Conflict Resolution Quarterly reinforces the suggestion that for conflicts to be resolved, disagreements need to be addressed directly. They also found that it is important to bolster and reinforce the bonds of integrative ties.

This is especially true in conflicts that emerge within organizations. Conflicts within organizations are inevitable. The ability of organizations to function well depends on how conflicts are managed. To be most effective in managing conflict, leaders should seek to address issues before conflicts erupt. This means that organizations should pay attention to structures and processes that could lead to conflict and constructively manage conflicts when they arise.

Moderating the destructive effects of conflicts can be easier when the organization has focused on the quality of personal relationships within and among working groups. The basis of these ties may be social, political, and/or economic. Social bonds imply that people know each other. But more than that social bonds mean that there is respect and trust among members of the group and among groups. Also, social bonds are enhanced when members of a group share a common sense of mission. Larson and LaFasto call this a “clear and elevating goal.”

Leadership styles and power relationships form the basis of  political ties within an organization.  In every organization there are differences in roles, levels of responsibility, skills, and abilities. It is important for these asymmetries to be explicitly recognized and for group members to commit to working as equally as possible. Political ties also require shared trust and a sense of shared mission.

Members of an organization are also tied together economically through the pay and a rewards system. The ultimate success of the organization in accomplishing its mission is also a bonding factor.  Issues that mitigate against a perception of the common good should be addressed. Factors that encourage pulling together for the shared mission should be emphasized.

This can be accomplished by “promoting respect of the other’s culture and abilities, meeting the expectations of one’s partners, recognizing … asymmetry and committing to working together as equally as possible.”

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