As children, our initial instincts are to trust whole-heartedly, with naïve abandon. Our very survival requires that we have trustworthy caregivers to nurture us as we grow. However, over time disappointments and betrayals can build up, making us very cautious with our trust.
“Do you trust me?” This isn’t a question we take lightly. So many people feel that building trust takes a very long time and that rebuilding trust after a betrayal is nearly impossible. Trust is extremely important, but also seems to be extremely fragile.
How do you consciously build trust with those who matter to you?
Here are some of my thoughts:
- Make a good first impression. If you are disrespectful (late, inappropriately dressed, unprepared, rude) at a first meeting, there’s little motivation to take the time required to determine if you’re trustworthy. So often, the social niceties and etiquette are really all that is needed to make a good first impression. If you’re meeting someone new – be prepared. Know where you’re going, who you’re meeting, and what you’ll be doing. Make sure you’ll have everything you need to show yourself and your abilities in the best light. If you know what’s expected of you, you can put your best foot forward and set some groundwork that is essential for building trust.
- Pay Attention. When we observe, actively listen, and ask intelligent questions, we learn who we’re dealing with and what they’re about. If you assume the other person has your same perspective, same personality and preferences, or same gripes, you can really put your foot in your mouth and seem inconsiderate or inappropriate. This speaks to respecting differences and really getting to know the other person’s point of view. When we’re too self-focused, we miss this.
- Connect. People trust people they know personally. Even when building a professional relationship, it’s critical to make sure to connect personally. What are their hobbies? What do they value? If we focus solely on business or logistics, we don’t connect to each other. Another way to connect is through attentive and connecting body language. Make eye contact, shake hands, and lean forward when you’re listening. Stay off your darn phone and focus on the person you’re with! We show respect and care if we’re fully present and engaged with the conversation.
- Show competence and diligence. I’m not saying to be pompous or pretend you’re perfect. Know what you can accomplish and in what timeframe, so you can diligently make and keep commitments. People often get into trouble when they overstate their abilities or overcommit. If I can’t trust that you’re making a good assessment of your time, energy, and ability, I can’t trust you. Only when you carefully assess a commitment before making it and perform as you promised (or appropriately ask for help), will I trust you.
- Show consideration. A big part of trust is trusting that you have my best interests at heart. If that’s lost, the relationship can be very hard to sustain. If I worry that you’ll throw me under the bus or take credit for my work, I’m not going to trust you. In the same way, if I don’t trust you’re looking out for the team or the project, I may not follow your lead. If you don’t consider how what you do impacts me or the team, you’ll show time and again that you are only looking out for yourself. Showing consideration for others is a strong foundation for maintaining trust.
- Don’t Assume. Trust is often shaken when folks believe that someone has done them wrong. This can happen in a lot of different ways, but it mainly comes down to assuming (and we all know what that does to you and me). If I assume that we agreed what I was supposed to do or what you were supposed to do, and I did not check in with you, you may think that I’m being inconsiderate or incompetent when I do something different from what you expected. We may have totally different ideas on what was supposed to happen (or what did happen) and have difficulty coming back together and trusting each other. It is extremely important to communicate effectively and to ruthlessly clarify. “I think this is what I should be doing right now. Is that correct?” Or “I heard you say this. Is that what you meant?”
- Manage conflict and mistakes. Even when we’ve set a good foundation of communication and clarity, we still can disagree or make mistakes. We’re human and we mess up. When this happens, when we don’t see eye to eye or we’ve actually done something wrong, we need to appropriately manage conflict and then fix any mistakes. We must listen respectfully to the other perspective, work to truly understand, and come to an agreement on how to resolve it. When there has been a true mistake (not just a difference of opinion), it’s important to immediately communicate it, identify how it happened, and work to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That’s the only way to maintain trust when conflict or mistakes come up. When we avoid talking about them or we hide them, we build distrust. If we can successful navigate through a conflict or fix a mistake, our trust may be stronger than ever.
Does this make sense? How many of these steps are you already doing? What new tidbit can you add to your daily routine?
I help teams to strengthen their trust, so they can improve morale and achieve their goals. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to work on trust with your team: 424.241.3205, firstname.lastname@example.org.