By Joryn Jenkins

The Power of Trust

The defining quality of collaborative dispute resolution practice is trust, don’t you agree? As collaborative professionals, we trust the process; we trust our teams; and we trust each professional with whom we work. For us trial lawyers, this is a jarring break from tradition. But the results we achieve and, ultimately, the trust we enjoy is what draws us in and, arguably, changes us for the better.

When trust is broken in a marriage or a business relationship, but the partners want to separate respectfully, confidentially, less expensively, and less traumatically, they reach out to us and trust us to show them the way.

We tell our clients that it’s all about trust. When they respond, as they often do, by asking how they could possibly trust the person who shattered their trust, we explain, “You don’t have to trust your partner; just trust your team and trust the process.”

Arguably, there is no downside to collaboration. If successful, you’ve achieved your goal. If not, you’re simply where you began a few weeks or months earlier.

And you know that you tried.

The Power of Tribalism

Tribalism, on the other hand, is always a mixed blessing. Think about it; on the one hand, it is human nature, for eons essential for survival, a predisposition to be attracted to others like you and to form groups based on shared characteristics like race, ethnicity, religion, or nationality. Such commonalities enable group members to take shortcuts to trust and therefore to deeper relationships with each other. Tribalism is a powerful force that unites people, empowering them to form protective connections and to realize common goals.

The Downsides of Tribalism

But tribalism has its downsides. Tribalism is, by definition, divisive, and can lead to conflict and violence. It can be anti-collaborative.

  • First, the defining characteristic of tribalism is lack of trust. Tribalism creates an “us vs. them” mentality. When people identify strongly with their own tribe, they tend to view members of other tribes as outsiders or even enemies. While more likely to trust members of their own group, they distrust people who are not in their group.
  • Second, tribalism leads to prejudice and discrimination, and then to conflict. When people view members of other groups as inferior or threatening, they are more likely to treat them unfairly. This can lead to violence and to war.
  • Finally, tribalism stifles innovation. When people are focused on fitting into their own group, they are less likely to consider new ideas or perspectives. This makes it difficult to be creative, and to find new solutions to problems.

Overcoming the Downsides

If tribalism is human nature, how do we eliminate its negative impacts?

  • First, learn about others who are not in your tribe. Get to know people with different perspectives. The more you know about others, the better you can connect with them and see the world through their eyes (and the less likely you will see them as “the enemy.”) Build trust.
  • Know your own biases and prejudices. We all have them. Acknowledge them when someone points them out or when you notice them. Challenge them. When we’re aware of our biases, we can be more mindful of our thoughts and actions. This enables us to be more trustful of different perspectives.
  • Finally, promote understanding and tolerance of “others.” Diversity is a strength; celebrate it. Everyone has something to offer. Recognizing this will build trust.

Overcoming the negatives of tribalism is not easy, but it is possible. By being aware of our biases, getting to know people who are different from us, and celebrating diversity, we create an environment more conducive to collaboration and a world more receptive to collaborative dispute resolution.

What do you think? I teach a workshop on the impact of tribalism on marketing collaborative dispute resolution at the Global Collaborative Law Council annual conference in Seattle this August. You’ll find details and registration here. For only $400 (for non-members) for the two-day training, you can’t beat the price. Attend it in person or by Zoom and share your thoughts with the rest of us.

And, for more on how to profitably market collaborative practice, reach out to me at or find me at Your Collaborative Marketing Coach, because your marketing is my marketing! Let’s change the way the world gets divorced, together!

Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, 2 of which she served as a professor of law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen Award, an honor bestowed upon those who have provided exceptional leadership to The American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.

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