The importance of trust in building long-term relationships should be evident to all. A few months back, I suggested a few ways of Building Trust Beyond the Obvious and here I want to step back a little and explore how trust begins when we meet someone for the first time. Understanding the process by which trust emerges can enhance the possibility that you will get it moving a little quicker ― trust doesn’t have to take a lifetime to build.
Assuming you have already read Trust and Integrity Made Simple, you will understand that both parties will have mutual feelings of trust, and that these levels may vary. The best relationships have broadly equal feeling of trust on both sides. Any serious imbalance is going to cause problems, sooner or later.
Here’s how trust gets going in a new relationship…
Step 1: Trust Orientation
Some “trust until proven otherwise”, while others “distrust until they have to”. Each individual will have a starting position between these two extremes based on their personal experiences, scars and bruises. The context of the new relationship will also make a difference (e.g. personal life or work). Relative starting positions can have a big impact on how trust builds.
Step 2: Preconceptions
Before we meet someone, we are likely to already know something about them. We will at least have an awareness of their business, job title, and objectives. We might even have heard others talking about them ― their reputation precedes them. As mature professionals, we can easily keep an open mind and not judge them before we have even met them, but hell, sales people are always looking out for number one!
So, before we even meet someone, we have decided (subconsciously) upon an initial level of trust.
Step 3: First Impressions
Now enter the realm of Malcolm Gladwell’s fabulous book, Blink. The first impression as we encounter the other person will have a long-lasting effect. To a large extent, we are checking to see if the other person conforms to our expectations. Careful appraisal of clothes, body language and mannerisms will all combine to verify our beliefs. Our ability to filter out evidence that doesn’t fit can impede our awareness of the facts before us.
Step 4: Engagement
And then the dialogue begins. In healthy relationships, each side will be testing and gradually increasing the level of trust bestowed on the other party. Starting with a relatively safe disclosure, and watching what happens. Does the other side respect our confidence, keep our secrets? As the level of confidence grows, so does the amount we are prepared to disclose.
Step 5: Risk Assessment
That said, we also need to take into account that, in our engagement, both sides will be aware of the potential consequences of any disclosure. What might happen if we share what we really think about the boss? Our risk weighting will determine the degree to which we are prepared to share, and when. They’ll be doing the same.
In order to be reasonable, we have to recognise that the other party might be in a completely different position and either more or less likely to trust. If we think about this sensibly, it will adjust our expectations and potentially avoid hindrances in trust development. If they are scared, we will need to work very hard to get them to trust us!
As you are beginning a new relationship, consider…
- How are you being affected by stereotypes, gossip and prejudice?
- What orientation are you taking to the first meeting? Is it time to reassess that one?
- What expectations and attitudes might the other side have of you?
- How can you mitigate against any cautions or suspicions they may have about you?
- Can you make trust a more overt topic without being crass?
- If total trust is a score of 10, what score would you give them?
- Okay, go on, what score would they give you?
- How can you improve the scores? Yes, both of them!
Thinking proactively about the topic of trust takes a little time, but with practice it gets quicker. Instead of thinking of this time as a cost, perhaps you could think about it more as an investment in your long-term success, and probably one which will have a fantastic ROI too!
Colin Gautrey is an author, coach, and trainer who specialises in the practical use of power and influence in large organisations. He has 25 years’ experience helping middle/senior professionals to survive, thrive and enjoy their work.
If you are ready to develop your influencing capability, become a member of Breakthrough Influence. If you are serious about becoming highly influential, fast, engage with Colin and he will help you get there in the most effective way possible.
Other articles by Colin:
Decoding and Resolving Personality Conflicts
When we were doing the original research which led to the creation of the Influence Profile back in 2005, I don’t think Mike and I realised just how powerful it was going to be in helping people to understand personality conflicts. Not only does it explain why personality clashes occur, it also provides a practical way of exploring how you can avoid conflict altogether.
The curious thing is that it is not the difference in personality which causes the problem. Personality clashes are unlikely to occur if…
- You understand the personality difference.
- You accept their right to be different.
- You can find a way to work with the difference.
The majority of the solution can be found…
Are You Worth Trusting? You Sure?
Obvious answer – of course you are! You know that. But, do they?
It is far easier that you may realise for others to distrust you. You don’t need to do anything wrong to see their level of trust in you dip. Indeed, it may be nothing whatsoever to do with you. However, the negative impact on your work will be big.
Below I am going to share thirteen reasons why trust may be declining around you – then you can take steps to arrest any decline, or make sure it doesn’t start to drop in the first place.
Before I do that…