In the previous article we looked at two types of trust, cognitive-based trust and affect-based trust, which are based on technical competency, and emotional attachment respectively. We also acknowledged that relationships are of course made up of both links and nodes and in this article we’re going to focus on the people (the nodes) and some of the influences that we need to consider in the context of relational contracting.
Whilst the two types of trust define the nature and likely approaches within the relationship, it’s important to understand better the impact that the individuals can have on the pace and style of development of the trust. Not all people are the same in this respect, we’re all ‘wired differently’ in this respect.
Based on a mix of personality type, experience, and the scenario we find ourselves in, we all have an individual ‘propensity to trust’. Again, this is another area that has been covered by much research which can help us.
Our propensity to trust is important from a number of perspectives. Firstly, it defines the pace at which we’ll develop rapport and trust with the other party. It can vary between the different types of trust, we may well be more receptive to building cognitive-based trust but slow to develop affect-based trust for example.
Equally, our propensity to trust impacts how we interact with the other person. Both in terms of how much, and how, we expose information to the other person, and how we interpret the information that we receive from them. Communication is fundamental to relational contracting and therefore our propensity to trust can have a direct impact on delivering successful outcomes as it relies on open, and transparent communication.
Our propensity of trust is a dynamic measure and can change over time based on our experiences and the context that we find ourselves in. For example, if we have trusted someone in the past, and their propensity to trust was lower than ours, or they breached our trust, then it’s unlikely that we’d take the same approach in a future encounter.
This example also highlights the importance of understanding our own propensity to trust as well as that of others. If we have a high propensity to trust, and the other person doesn’t appear to reciprocate, then it’s important to remember that this may not be because they are untrustworthy, it could be that they have a lower propensity to trust. Propensity to trust is after all a relative measure and affected by many different things.
One of the larger influences to our propensity to trust in a relational contracting context is likely to be organisational trust. Of course at an organisational level relationships are formed by the views of a collection of people, often with their own individual relationships. As an aggregate view it’s likely that it will be almost exclusively cognitive in nature.
Over these two short articles we’ve obviously only briefly touched on what is a fundamental enabler for not only relational contracting but for more general success in business. There are many other articles and papers available on the subject which provide much more insight and research into trust, however, when you’re next approaching a contracting opportunity if you take time to consider trust and the relationship using the types of trust, and the propensity to trust you will improve your chances of improved outcomes.