Trust, online? Now that’s tricky!

 

Inter-party trust has been identified, in the literature and in practice, as one of the most important, yet elusive, elements in negotiation and mediation. What makes people trust one another? How do we decide whether to trust one another in negotiation? What is the most productive way a mediator might deal with trust issues – which might already be present or arise during the process -- between parties? These questions are challenging enough in face- to-face situations. What challenges does online communication pose with regard to trust, trust-building and trust-breaking? In this forum, we will to explore insights and best practices regarding, some of these questions.

 

To start this off, please read this short case, which will serve as a basis for this forum discussion as well as several others during Cyberweek: Ecotourism media effects case.pdf

 

Next, let’s kick the conversation off by relating the following questions:

 1)         What do you think is the most significant way in which communicating through online media is the same or different from trust building in face-to-face settings?

 

2)         How do you see some of those issues playing out in the Ecotourism case?

 

We're looking forward to this conversation a great deal! Let's get started.

 

Barbara and Noam


Moderator Bios:


Noam Ebner


Noam Ebner is an assistant professor at the Werner Institute at Creighton University's School of Law, where he chairs the online masters program in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution.  Previously, he taught at universities in Israel, Turkey and Costa Rica, in addition to managing a mediation firm in Jerusalem, Israel.

 He is the co/author of several pieces on online negotiation, including:

Ebner, N., (2007)  “Trust-Building in E-Negotiation”. In L. Brennan & V. Johnson (Eds.), Computer-Mediated Relationships and Trust: Managerial and Organizational Effects.  Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing

Ebner, N., Bhappu, A., Brown, J.G., Kovach, K.K. & Kupfer Schneider, A.  (2009) “You’ve got agreement: Negoti@ing via email.”    In C. Honeyman, J. Coben & G. DiPalo (Eds.) Rethinking Negotiation Teaching: Innovations for Context and Culture. St Paul, MN: DRI Press.   [Reprinted (2010) Hamline Journal of Public Law and Policy, 31(2), 31(2), 427-458]



Barbara Madonik


Barbara Madonik, President of Unicom Communication Consultants Inc., is a veteran communication consultant, mediator and dispute management specialist, and courtroom strategist.  An internationally-recognized expert in nonverbal communication, her worldwide practice focuses on practical, face-to-face and online communication tools.

She has been faculty and keynote speaker for clients that include government, business, universities, law schools, dispute resolution institutes, and the UN. She sits on two international advisory boards.

Her landmark book, I Hear What You Say, But What Are You Telling Me? The Strategic Use of Nonverbal Communication in Mediation (Jossey-Bass, 2001) has been required reading in graduate programs and Building Trust: Keeping the Heart and Mind in Online Negotiation” is now a chapter in the newest ABA Guide to International Business Negotiations (3rd Ed., 2009).  More information is available at www.unicomcommunication.com and Barbara can be contacted personally at madonik@unicomcommunication.com or 416-652-1867.



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Barbara - I like your question - and Jennifer's suggestions remind us of something very basic to our work: We are hear to help people work things out - not to display our prowess with state-of-the-art technology. If our technology is cutting edge and therefore inaccessible to or unoperateable by our clients, we are not going to be able to help them if we ourselves are overly reliant on those tools. Skill with high-tech equipment is important; equal skill with low-level technology, "old" technology the world still depends on (e.g. the telephone. I'm not suggesting we need to know to operate a telegraph.) and - dare I raise it? - managing a face-to-face conversation are just as important.


Jennifer Jackson said:
This question of less advanced technology made me think of the Online Family Mediation and Collaborative Practice webinar, specifically the research done on using distance mediation with separated couples in rural British Colombia. While the primary communication via telephone is a form of sound communication, the use of an email feedback loop also provided sight communication. This distance mediation used two of the three types of communication spoken of earlier. This would of course be dependent on a person’s confidence in email use, but I suppose a fax might be able to provide a similar function. It seems to me that the feedback loop could be a trust builder. As mentioned in a previous post, tone of voice in telephone communication would also be important to building trust. I also think that using teleconference so that all stakeholders could be part of a conversation would develop trust in this type of situation.
Noam & Jennifer,

I like the way you're both approaching trust -- from the position of connecting in a way that is positively meaningful for the party with whom you're communicating.

The key to building trust seems to be meeting stakeholders on a level in which they find the greatest comfort. The most effective way to detect that comfort can be as simple as following their respective communicaton leads and "playing back" these leads. You do this by shaping your information into a form that matches the style or manner that each demonstrates he or she respectively likes to use to communicate.

Building trust is like graceful dancing: The balance is literally shifting all the time. And while it may look as if one person is leading... it only becomes elegant when the other partner follows closely and mirrrors the movement.


Matthew J Starman said:
I feel that the biggest difference in building trust in online and face-to-face settings is the amount of interpretation needed in a conversation. In text "My day is fantastic" could be interpreted differently than what the sender meant. Without tone, inflection, or non-verbal communication, one would be forced to interpret this to be a good thing. Hearing and seeing one say this would leave little doubt what they actually meant.

One of the great things about ODR is that it allows for the resolution of conflict over vast distances. This may also create problems with the unknown differences in the style of conflict engagement. In this case, at least three different styles are involved; not to mention the language, culture, and time differences. While many of these issues would also take place face-to-face, I feel they would be magnified if the right technology is not selected.

Luckily this case does have a bit of hope to it. At this point, they still have an interest of doing business together. Building trust will rely on this.

I agree with what you're saying. Communication through text is different in the sense that you don't know how people are saying the things that they are. When you are face to face with someone you can sense sarcasm and you can tell when someone is being serious, funny, etc. Through text these sort of verbal cues are hard to pick up on. I've noticed from my own experience that a lot of fights have arised from thing like this. I will respond to someone via text message and they will take it offensively. For example, saying "whats up with you?" can be interpreted as having emphasis on the you or the up and one way sounds friendly, while the other does not.

That is why ODR is so crucial to the internet world. When conflicts arise there is protocol to go through that allows for users to feel more comfortable and for solutions to come about more simply. It allows users to feel confident in their online activities because they know that if a problem does arise, that they can deal with it in a positive manner.
I agree with you in what you're saying how face to face interpretation is much better than anything through text. When talking with someone though email, letters, or even texting on the phone, at times I feel like I'm not sure how the other person really feels. Anyone can interpret what someone says in any way they want through text. Some phrases are tricky and can be taken in a happy, exciting, sad, grumpy, etc. kind of mood. It really all depends on how well they portray what they are trying to get across. To me, face to face contact and talking is much more reliable. You are able to read people's faces through their eyes, their facial reactions, how heavy they are breathing and how timid or excited they sound. People's voice levels play play a huge role in a conversation. Voice levels and sound can instantly determine someone's mood.
Right now it's 6:15pm EST and Cyberweek 2010 is drawing to a close.

I'd like to thank all of you folks who actively participated in this forum and also those who were interested enough to follow along even if you didn't comment.

We certainly had many interesting ideas to consider about this nebulous area that's as intrinsic in odr as trust is in any other adr process.

It was treat to be one of the Cyberspace moderators and I thank you for allowing me that privilege.

And finally, let me remind anyone who'd like to read the complete chapter of "Building Trust: Keeping the Heart and Mind in Online Dispute Resolution" (drawn from ABA's latest edition of their guide to international negotiations), please contact me directly by email using madonik@unicomcommunication.com or by calling me directly at 416-652-1867 (that's Toronto) and asking for it. The phone line rings right on my desk... and if I'm in my office, you'll be talking directly with me.

Would love to hear from you ... and thanks again for participating!
Best to you all,
Barbara
Hi all -

Ditto on everything Barbara said so well!

I'll just add that this forum is a reflection of a trend I've been noticing over the past few years: Interest in the notion of trust is on the rise, in the field of ADR in general and ODR in particular. We used to think that if we built a good enough machine, we wouldn't need trust; there was more focus on having a good platform than on interpersonal dynamics. Indeed, some of the leading ODR platforms, particularly the veteran ones, tried to diminish the role of trust (for example, in CyberSettle's blind bidding system, trust is moot). However, any process in which parties exchange information and messages is going to depend on trust - their trust in each other, and their trust in the mediator - if one is conducting the process. Understanding the nature of trust and the dynamics which make or break it is therefore essential to negotiators and mediators. I think that this forum was an important step in identifying these dynamics and trying to figure out how online interaction gives them a special flavor.

I chair the online graduate program in negotiation and dispute resolution at Creighton University. As you can guess, trust is a critical element in the teacher-student relationship/ongoing-negotiation, just as much as it is in any of the interactions we discussed, or had in mind, as we wrote here - and, particularly so in the online venue we utilize for our program. Before diving back into teaching, I'm going to read the forum top-to-bottom, looking for insights to 'take back home' and start implementing right away. I invite you all to do the same.

I'm at noamebner@creighton.edu, for any questions or comments, or if anybody would like any material on topics raised in the forum. In addition, feel free to contact me here through ADRHub! We're looking forward to many of you seeing this platform as a new home for your professional development, networking and speaking-up.

I'd like to end with a big thank you to all the participants, active and lurkers alike! To John DeBruyne and Sam Edwards, partners in conceptualizing and framing the "Media Effects: Online Communication and..." forum series, and authors of the Ecotourism case. To Jeff Thompson, ADRHub Wizard and Bryan Hanson of the Werner Institute, who can finally get some sleep now that Cyberweek has ended. And, finally - thank you Barbara, for sharing space, thoughts and time with me!

Take care all -
Noam
Hi Noam,
I would appreciate having a copy of your "take home lessons." At certain moments the discussion was too abstract for my taste...and I need to ground the concepts, if I'm going to be able to use them to improve practices. Or perhaps, we all need to come down to earth and share some conclusions? Thanks for an excellent job coordinating this panel!



Noam Ebner said:
Hi all -

Ditto on everything Barbara said so well!

I'll just add that this forum is a reflection of a trend I've been noticing over the past few years: Interest in the notion of trust is on the rise, in the field of ADR in general and ODR in particular. We used to think that if we built a good enough machine, we wouldn't need trust; there was more focus on having a good platform than on interpersonal dynamics. Indeed, some of the leading ODR platforms, particularly the veteran ones, tried to diminish the role of trust (for example, in CyberSettle's blind bidding system, trust is moot). However, any process in which parties exchange information and messages is going to depend on trust - their trust in each other, and their trust in the mediator - if one is conducting the process. Understanding the nature of trust and the dynamics which make or break it is therefore essential to negotiators and mediators. I think that this forum was an important step in identifying these dynamics and trying to figure out how online interaction gives them a special flavor.

I chair the online graduate program in negotiation and dispute resolution at Creighton University. As you can guess, trust is a critical element in the teacher-student relationship/ongoing-negotiation, just as much as it is in any of the interactions we discussed, or had in mind, as we wrote here - and, particularly so in the online venue we utilize for our program. Before diving back into teaching, I'm going to read the forum top-to-bottom, looking for insights to 'take back home' and start implementing right away. I invite you all to do the same.

I'm at noamebner@creighton.edu, for any questions or comments, or if anybody would like any material on topics raised in the forum. In addition, feel free to contact me here through ADRHub! We're looking forward to many of you seeing this platform as a new home for your professional development, networking and speaking-up.

I'd like to end with a big thank you to all the participants, active and lurkers alike! To John DeBruyne and Sam Edwards, partners in conceptualizing and framing the "Media Effects: Online Communication and..." forum series, and authors of the Ecotourism case. To Jeff Thompson, ADRHub Wizard and Bryan Hanson of the Werner Institute, who can finally get some sleep now that Cyberweek has ended. And, finally - thank you Barbara, for sharing space, thoughts and time with me!

Take care all -
Noam
Thanks Nora -
I'm working on that - it's coming out confused for me as well :-) - there were certainly some practicalities, I'm trying to figure out if there were new practicalities. Also - I'm thinking from a teaching, not a dispute resolution perspective.

One thing I'm certainly taking away - from this and from other Cyberweek forums -is that everybody thinks video will solve everything. I don't know why that is. I've decided I should focus more on video - not just in the sense of using it more (which I've been doing, as clients/students become more comfortable with it) but to find out where it's precise strgengths and weaknesses are.

Can I offer you some previous take-home lessons? Here's a chapter I wrote on trust in text e-communication.

Take care - Noam
Attachments:
Noam, Thanks for this paper! I will read it with care...this conversation continues...



Noam Ebner said:
Thanks Nora -
I'm working on that - it's coming out confused for me as well :-) - there were certainly some practicalities, I'm trying to figure out if there were new practicalities. Also - I'm thinking from a teaching, not a dispute resolution perspective.

One thing I'm certainly taking away - from this and from other Cyberweek forums -is that everybody thinks video will solve everything. I don't know why that is. I've decided I should focus more on video - not just in the sense of using it more (which I've been doing, as clients/students become more comfortable with it) but to find out where it's precise strgengths and weaknesses are.

Can I offer you some previous take-home lessons? Here's a chapter I wrote on trust in text e-communication.

Take care - Noam

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