Summary of "Trust, Trust Development, and Trust Repair"

Summary of

Trust, Trust Development, and Trust Repair

By Roy J. Lewicki and Carolyn Wiethoff

This Article Summary written by: Conflict Research Consortium Staff

Citation: Roy J. Lewicki and Carolyn Wiethoff. "Trust, Trust Development, and Trust Repair." Morton Deutsch and Peter T. Coleman, eds., The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice San Francisco: Jossey-Bas Publishers, 2000, pp. 86-107.

Lewicki and Wiethoff focus on the role of trust in personal and professional relationships. They explore the importance of trust to effective conflict management, and suggest techniques for managing distrust and rebuilding trust.

The authors define trust as "an individual's belief in, and willingness to act on the basis of, the words, actions, and decisions of another."(p. 87) Distrust is not merely the absence of trust, but is an active negative expectation regarding another. They identify two bases for trust (or distrust). Calculus-based trust rests on assessments of costs and rewards for violating or sustaining trust, and is more typical of professional relationships. Identification-based trust rests on the parties' mutual understanding and affinity, and is more typical of personal relationships such as friendship.

As relationships develop and change over time, so does the nature of trust in those relationships. Our trust in another person also varies in different situations and contexts, and so different types of trust, and even trust and distrust, may coexist in the same relationship.

The authors draw on their account of trust to characterize relationships based on four variables: calculus-based trust, calculus-based distrust, identification-based trust, identification-based distrust.

Research shows that calculus-based trust can be built by engaging in predicable, constant, reliable ways. The authors offer several strategies for managing calculus-based distrust. First, have explicit agreements on goals, deadlines and penalties, and on monitoring procedures. Develop alternatives to relying on another, and use those alternatives as a threat. Show the other how their performance may be (unintentionally) provoking distrust, and attempt to understand the logic of another's seemingly inconsistent behavior.

Identification-based trust can be fostered if the parties take time to develop their common interests, values, perceptions, motives and goals. Identification-based trust has a strong emotional component, and so is sensitive to a number of non-logical factors. This makes managing identification-based distrust difficult. One strategy is to increase the parties' calculus-based trust. Another is to openly acknowledge areas of distrust, and jointly develop ways to work around those areas.

Frequent or severe violations of trust (or conversely of distrust) are likely to change the trusting relationship. Violations of calculus-based trust are likely to encourage calculus-based distrust (and vice versa). Such violations of trust can be managed in a relatively straightforward manner, by determining the cause of the lapse and the likelihood of further such lapses.

Violations of identification-based trust have a greater effect on the parties' emotional well-being. Violations of identification-based trust are likely to end the relationship itself, if they are not properly addressed. To repair such a violation parties must first communicate in an attempt to identify and understand the breach, and then explicitly recommit themselves to their trusting relationship.

This account of trust has a number of implications for conflict management. First, trust facilitates effective conflict resolution. Second, conflicts diminish trust and build distrust. Third, the authors argue that "creating trust in a relationship is initially a matter of building calculus-based trust."(p. 101) Identification-based trust can further strengthen a relationship, as the parties come to have a shared interest in maintaining their relationship. Distrusting relationships are more prone to conflict, and those conflicts are more prone to increase distrust. Most relationships are a mixture of both types of trust and distrust, and so are marked by varying degree of ambivalence. Finally, trust can be rebuilt. However, sine the rebuilding process is often lengthy, conflict management may be more effective if it emphasize managing distrust.