Trust and Distrust

 

Efrain Martinez

Former CRS Mediator, Houston Office


[Full Interview]

Question:
Let's switch gears a little bit and talk about trust. We've talked a lot on Monday about how you generate trust. How important is trust, can you operate if you aren't able to gain trust the trust of the parties?

Answer:
I don't think so. At least a certain level of trust. You talk about absolute proof, or proof beyond a reasonable doubt. You don't have to have absolute trust, but it must be enough trust to be able to do the job. I guess that can vary with different people; some people trust you more, some people trust you less. But you're not asking them to trust you, you're just asking them to consider what is being proposed or consider options that you're proposing or your presentation of different perspectives. They decide on that. Also, once I've met them, they make the judgment of if I was true to what I said I was going to do or not. Did I hold things in confidence that they wanted me to? Did I talk to those people that I said I was going to talk to? So maybe not necessarily trust, but there's a working relationship. And as long as there's a working relationship, that's all we need to be effective.

Question:
What about trust between the parties?

Answer:
I guess it's pretty much the same. They test each other out. If they establish a working relationship based on whatever they're going to do together, then the process itself begins creating this trust among them. You can't just say, "Hey trust me." They never have total trust, especially if there's been a history of mistrust, but a lot of times that mistrust is based on misunderstanding, or lack of understanding. So through a process it creates an opportunity for trust.

Question:
Have you ever run into a situation where you're doing well at building trust between the parties and then one of them does something that breaks it all down? They violate an agreement or something they said they were going to do, or they leak information?

Answer:
There might have been where they perceived that there was a breach of confidence. We analyze whether there was or wasn't, and if there was, what effects does it have on the overall goal that they're trying to achieve. If they see it to their benefit to keep discussions going because they see they're benefiting, although somebody slipped up somewhere, then it's not really important when you look at the big picture. But they have to decide that. Since discussions are voluntary, they can withdraw any time. They have to decide if it's worth it for them to keep going, in spite of the fact they thought something had occurred. But also you can have them talk it out and maybe it was a misunderstanding, it wasn't that person's perception that what he or she was saying was violating the agreement or there was a breach of confidence let's say. They need to see that by continuing the dialogue everybody's going to be better off.