In Building Trust in a New Relationship, we talked about four steps of trust building.. At a high level, that’s how it works. What we consider here is an example of how this might work and, more importantly, illustrating the trail of thoughts which might go through the minds of those involved.
Step 1: Trust Orientation
Imagine what it would be like if two people started a relationship coming from either end of the spectrum ― one person trusting too much (let’s call him Sanjay), and the other too little (Sally). Sanjay will enter the relationship full of optimism and positive expectation, looking for the clues that prove he is right ― Sally is someone who is highly trustable. On the other hand, Sally will enter with a large amount of suspicion, perhaps fuelled by the core value that “most people are out to get you, it’s a dog-eat-dog world”. It also happens that she has recently and sadly been let down by someone she trusted ― again!
Step 2: Preconceptions
Because Sanjay comes from Compliance, it is likely (thinks Sally) that he is putting on a show, hoping she will let her guard down and reveal something that would work against her. There is absolutely nothing wrong with what Sally is doing in her job, but Compliance may not see it quite that way.
Yet, over on the other way, Sanjay is quite prepared to put aside the fact that Sally comes from the Sales Division. He knows that in the past many things have gone wrong there. But happily, most of the bad apples have been rooted out, so “Hey, I’ll judge Sally on how I find her, and reserve judgement on what a colleague just whispered to me about her on the way out of the office just now.”
Step 3: First Impressions
At their first meeting, things get off to an awkward and hesitant start. Although Sally appears friendly and amiable, Sanjay notices how stiff her posture is. She also keeps fiddling with her pen and avoiding eye contact ― or maybe he is just imagining it ― as he can well believe she’s had a tough day.
On the other hand, Sally is met with a warm, open and convivial welcome. He doesn’t appear anything like she imagined ― she can’t remember the last time she saw someone from Compliance smile!
Step 4: Engagement
As they start to talk, Sanjay is being quite open about the problems Compliance can cause, and Sally certainly has to agree with that one! He is even admitting that maybe they got it wrong on a couple of occasions. Although Sally is surprised, she makes a mental note to remember that, regardless, he’s still one of the “business prevention crew”. And if she lets something slip, her VP will go mad.
While this is going on behind the superficial smile Sally has perfected, Sanjay is starting to wonder. He notices that she is not responding to his open approach. In fact, she is actually closing down, despite the smile. He also notices that she has closed her body posture and has a nervous look on her face ― only very brief, but it was there. And, some of the things she is saying ― “Oh yeah, I’ve heard that one before!” Of course, it was said with humour, but it is starting to sound like she doesn’t trust him.
Step 5: Risk Assessment
Reflecting in a quiet moment while Sally is talking, Sanjay is able to reflect that perhaps her body language is understandable. After all, the last Compliance Manager was rather brutal in her enthusiasm to get everyone to follow the rules. So perhaps it is little wonder that Sally is not relaxing. He decides to tackle the problem head-on and assertively, by suggesting that they completely avoid the subject of work. “Let’s keep clear of work, that doesn’t matter ― what’s more important is relaxing and having fun.” Perhaps the first date won’t be so bad after all.
Yes, exactly the same applies outside of work too!