Have you ever asked this question? It wouldn’t surprise me if only 1% of people who ask this question actually ask it out loud. If you did ask someone this question, would you trust the answer? Hmm, probably about as useful as asking someone to trust you. If you have to ask someone to trust you, or if you have to ask if someone trusts you, you’re already in trouble.
Since trust is so central to influence, it is important to know the answer to this question even though it’s almost pointless asking. Many articles have been written on how to build trust, but rarely do they touch on how you can tell if your effort to build trust is working. Measuring results and monitoring performance indicators is normal activity in most organisations, so how about extending this to the level of trust in your relationship?
I don’t want to suggest that you take this too far, but taking a little time out to consider the evidence you would expect to see if trust is healthy in your relationship. This can have a positive impact on both the probability that you will take the right action to build trust, and also that trust will flourish in your relationship. It will also help you to prepare for the inevitable challenge from a coach when you are setting up influencing goals which touch this subject!
So, to get you thinking about the evidence of trust, or the lack of it, below are some ideas of the sort of things you may notice in your relationships. All lists are prone to exceptions and caveats, and this list exceptionally so. Therefore, as you read them, remember that these are just clues and it’s the bigger picture you need to determine.
Someone may trust you if they…
- Tell you things which make them vulnerable (naive and stupid people can do this too).
- Tell you things they know might upset or offend you (unless they simply don’t care).
- Proactively update you on what is happening.
- Don’t seek corroboration and take you at your word (note that some do this by default in new relationships).
- Tell you things they obviously shouldn’t (watch out for political players spinning you a lie).
- Seek out your opinion ahead of big decisions.
- Tell you other people’s secrets (although you may not wish to trust them in return).
Someone may not trust you if they…
- Repeatedly ask you the same question over a number of days or weeks.
- Ask lots of follow-up questions and really drive into the detail (however, some people are just that way inclined).
- Never give straight answers to your questions — are evasive.
- Watch you anxiously to decipher your reaction.
- Stop talking when you arrive (politeness and respect is permitted).
- Seek answers, clarification, or confirmation from others instead of asking you directly (especially your boss).
- Only give you good news and/or hold back bad news until they absolutely have to tell you.
- Ask you to put it in writing (oh dear).
This is not an exhaustive list, and I encourage you to think of your own ideas too. The most useful way of doing this is to think of a stakeholder whom you are attempting to influence at the moment.
- What evidence is there that this stakeholder trusts you?
- What evidence is there that this stakeholder does not trust you?
- What evidence do you display that may make them trust or distrust you?
It is important to remember that while it is easy to give examples of the evidence, it will vary from individual to individual. Some are more, or less, trusting by nature and experience. The level of trust will also vary depending on the sensitivity of the issue at hand, and the consequences for the individual. I’ll talk more about that another time.
For now, just challenge yourself and look for the evidence that you have got the level of trust right.
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:
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Over the last few weeks I have spoken to many people. It is part of my research into the challenges that are holding people back from success. In many of them, I am getting the feeling that they hold the opinion that the person they wish to influence is wrong.
For example, Jane. She wanted to know how to influence her boss, Lukas. She wanted him to support a particular project she was desperate to get off the ground. Jane took me through the rational argument. It was a no-brainer, “Why doesn’t he get it? It’s obvious we should do it!”
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There is no need to waste your time here with lengthy rationale. Just consider the last time you bought something from someone you distrusted. My bet is that you’ll find it quite hard to think of an example. Much easier is to think of a time when you bought something from someone you did trust. How did you feel about the transaction? What difference does it make to you that you trusted the individual (or company)?
Rather than debate how you might be able to…