Negotiation Tactics, Trust Mechanisms, and Training

Bear spray

Bear spray (Photo credit: jkbrooks85)

I was listening to a short podcast with Seth Freeman on negotiation — “be hard on the problem, soft on the person” — and there was a moment that I just had to grab and share with you.

There’s a myth that without trust we can’t negotiate. But that’s not true, Freeman argues, because we often need to negotiate with people we can’t trust, such as enemies in war when we sue for peace. So we use trust mechanisms, to bridge a trust gap. And Freeman talked about meeting at a dance the woman who would become his wife.

How is it possible that I could go up to a woman who didn’t know me at all, in the middle of Manhattan, in the evening, put my arm around her and hold her close to me for ten minutes, without her spraying Mace in my face? And the answer is we had a trust mechanism present for us, and that was dance steps.

THIS. THIS. This is why we train routines and patterns and silly little games like targeting, so that our behavior is predictable rather than frightening.

So when my vet needs to check my dog’s eye or take a temperature or something, and my dog hasn’t got any kind of trusting relationship with someone he’s barely met, the situation isn’t hopeless! We can just use a trust mechanism, which might be a targeting routine or something else we’ve trained, which informs the dog that this isn’t an attack, this is a pattern that he already knows and can trust.

Can you think of trust mechanisms in your training, or even in your daily life?

About Laura VanArendonk Baugh CPDT-KA KPACTP

Laura was born at a very young age and started playing with animals immediately after. She never grew out of it, and it looks to be incurable. She is the author of the bestselling FIRED UP, FRANTIC, AND FREAKED OUT. She owns Canines In Action, Inc. in Indianapolis, speaks at workshops and seminars, and is also a Karen Pryor Academy faculty member.

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  1. Of course, context and environment is an important element. Just speaking to the example of being at the dance; if the fellow had tried to put his arms around an unknown woman and hold her close on the subway, then the chances of it being perceived as a uncomfortable or even threatening encounter go up significantly. 😉

  2. Love this! Caleb and I have spent a lot of time nose targeting objects that he finds scary. As a result if he perceives an object as scary he will typically start offering nose targets. More than once he has started nose targeting an object that I didn’t realize he would be worried about. Not only does he relax as a result, but it is a great indicator for me that he is stressed and I’m going to have to work even harder to keep him under threshold:).

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