As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.—Mahatma Gandhi

Today’s is a low trust world.  That’s why there’s so much bullying, fighting and litigation.  Don’t you wish you could live in a better world?  You can.  I’ve seen it happen in divorce cases over and over again.

How many of you have a hard time trusting your ex?  Or even worse, their new mate?  Holy smokes, why is this guy talking about trust?  I can’t stand that &@#%^$%!.

But you’re negotiating about important issues of child rearing, financial issues and the like.  You want to get through this without spending money on lawyer and expert fees.  Therefore, trust may be what you need.

High trust is like oil in the gears of any negotiation.  High trust reduces your legal and transactional costs exponentially.  Low trust leads to appraisal evaluations, child custody evaluations costing thousands, multiple court hearings and huge attorney’s fees.

Consider the store owner Bill, who orders 1,000 widgets from the factory.  He knows the factory owner Janet to be a person of great integrity.  He has placed hundreds of orders over the last 5 years, and each time he gets widgets of high quality, delivered on time.  Bill has always paid Janet on time, occasionally even paying a bonus for work well-done.

About a year ago about 10 percent of the widgets had a flaw that made them unsellable.  Janet immediately rectified the situation by refunding the money for the defective widgets and delivering salable widgets immediately.

Bill doesn’t need to hire a lawyer or write up a lengthy contract.  He knows he won’t have to involve the courts to enforce performance of the contract.  He needs to keep enough widgets in stock to satisfy his customer base.  Whenever his stock is getting low, he places a call to his supplier:  “Hey, Janet, I’m running low.  Can you get 1,000 widgets over to my warehouse by week’s end?”  Janet says, “Sure.  I’ll get the order ready as soon as possible.  Hey, my suppliers have raised their rates and I need to increase the cost by 10 cents per unit.  Is that alright with you?”  “Sure, Janet, that will be fine.”

When people can do business on a handshake, transaction costs go to almost nothing.  But how did Bill get there?  And more importantly for you, how can you get there with your ex?  Let’s break down what happened between Bill and Janet that led to the high trust.

  • Bill and Janet have a relationship that has spanned years.
  • Over those years both have been willing to make agreements and compromise.
  • Each time they have an agreement, both parties promptly do what they promised.

How do you build trust, or overcome mistrust in your relationship with your ex?  Here are some pointers:

1.  Be reasonable and willing to enter into agreements that benefit both of you.  The first half of the trust equation is a willingness to stretch yourself and reach agreements.  These normally aren’t perfectly aligned with your interests, but they are designed to maximize the benefits to both parties.

2.  Be trustworthy.  The other half of the trust equation is to follow through on what you said you were going to do.  Over time, if the support payments are made on time, or you’re there promptly at the exchange time and place for little Johnny, you become predictable, and the other starts to believe you can be counted on.

3.  Leave the past in the past.  Don’t bring up the issues that divided you.

4.  Think win-win.  Be a problem-solver and avoid complaining.  If you want to vent your feelings, call your best friend or your therapist.  When negotiating with your ex, try to find win-win solutions.

My final remark is that trust takes time to build, but it can be shattered in a second.  Try not to do or say things that will destroy the trust.  Start behaving in predictable ways.  Over time you’ll find that cooperation will get easier.

Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying “A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade”.  As a mediator, my stock in trade is really trust.  I exert effort to build and protect trust.  When negotiating divorce issues, you should too.

Love your family,

Protect your finances, and

Reach for your future!

Thomas D. Ferreira, Esq.

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