"That's ridiculous. I tell you what... If I'm ever presenting to a group of 5th graders, I'll call you." This was the response he gave me when I suggested a different approach for his new sales opportunity. As you can imagine, his response did wonders for developing our relationship. Just in case you think I'm serious with that remark... let me be perfectly clear, it did nothing for our relationship but damage it.
He didn't value my opinions... and I found it hard to trust him after that. I certainly thought twice before offering any suggestions in the future. Trust is valuable. It's built over time but it can be lost in an instant. Developing trust can take time, but there is a way to accelerate our pace.
Trust is gained by giving it away
The message we want to share with you today is NOT about simulating trust, it's about developing genuine trust. This takes focus, discipline, and time. So, how can we all develop genuine trust with others? It begins with our conversations. There are three steps to facilitate conversations that build trusting relationships.
1. Show Respect
Start your conversation by asking an opinion question and then show respect for the other person's opinion by actively listening. Open questions tend to invite a more storied response full of personal opinions. Knowing that you want to ask an opinion question, you can even start with something like, "What's your opinion on... ?"
- What do you think about the decision to cut this project?
- What's your opinion on... ?
- What do you think we should do about the supply chain backlogs?
As they begin to speak, your body language sends a message. Our focus needs to be one of empathy. Make an effort to see their opinion from their point of view. How do you think they feel about this response? What are they feeling right now?
If they're providing an opinion with open honesty, they are being vulnerable. They know this vulnerability exposes them to potential ridicule. How you react will tell them much about whether or not they should trust you.
2. Create Safety
After responding with vulnerability to you, they're waiting to hear your response. If they receive an affirmation from you, they know they can share future personal opinions with you. It takes courage for the other person to offer a different viewpoint. The fastest way for you to promote trust at this moment is to offer your affirmation of their opinion.
Your affirming response to a vulnerable moment sets the stage for developing stronger bonds of mutual respect and trust... even when disagreeing with each other. You affirmed the validity of their comments, even if you disagreed. This show of respect and safety in conversations builds trust.
- That's a great way of looking at that.
- I appreciate your perspective.
- That sounds very reasonable.
3. Show Deeper Interest
Once you've affirmed their opinion, you can further develop the trust relationship by asking a follow-up question. The unique nature of this step is that it is not just asking another question. It's a true follow-up question. Which means, this question digs deeper into something you just learned from their first response. In other words, it would be nearly impossible to have this question pre-loaded. You cannot ask an effective follow-up question without first hearing the response to your initial question.
- How would you extend the deadline as you proposed?
- So, if we move to an online platform, which platform do you like?
- What part of the project would need to be reworked for that to happen?
How important is the third step?
EXTREMELY important! One interesting study was conducted by several researchers at Harvard, led by Karen Huang. They wanted to know how to improve “likability” in a relationship. The inference here is that if someone likes you, they are well on their way to trusting you more. Here's what they found.
The subjects participated in a form of speed dating using brief conversations. Some were "confederates" and "in" on the study. These people used the three-step process defined above for every conversation. By the end of the event, when participants were asked to fill out evaluations on the other participants, the confederates who used the 3-step tool were valued most for the authentic relationships formed in the short period of time.
The first two steps in this process are a great start, but step three with the follow-up question is the key to developing stronger relationships.
I hope you can join us for our next FREE webinar on "How to Build Trust through Conversation" on Friday, June 17th where we will discuss this conversation model and take your questions.
Until next time...
Russ Peterson Jr.
Russ Peterson Jr. is the co-founder and President of iSpeak, Inc. – An award-winning professional development training company. Russ is a speaker, international trainer, and published author on Professional Sales Communication and Business Communication. He delivers workshops, keynotes, and personal communication coaching services to business professionals in the US and around the world. iSpeak helps people build stronger relationships and achieve more through better communication. You can connect with Russ directly through LinkedIn.