Human conflict, drama and gossip are all very funny things. Call me idealistic, but I do not believe that deep down people genuinely dislike other people. Bad relationships form out of misinformation or no information at all. We’ve all been gifted with perspective and egos, but they often do us the disservice of helping listeners misinterpret a speaker and inspiring speech to skew with bias. It is very, very easy – even more so for the most mindful, brilliant, sociable or well-spoken people – to misunderstand each other. Dialogue, body language and writing are all very delicate things. If you find yourself in a sticky situation with another human being, give him or her the benefit of the doubt and blame poor communication first. Try to get the other person to do the same. Get on the same page about miscommunication and you are one step closer to working it out. It’s not the other person’s fault – do not blame him or her. It’s communication’s fault.
When it comes to daily life, transparency may be the easiest and most genuine way to build trust. If you have nothing to hide, others will take comfort in believing you and run out of good reasons to hide things from you.
Throughout my entire management career, I have struggled with shielding information from my team to keep the machine running. Secrets don’t make friends, especially in business. As a common example, most managers pad deadlines so that their final deliveries can be met. In many cases, the real deadlines surface and proactive fake deadlines lose credibility. Why not admit final deadlines up front and set padded expectations for your team? Most people understand the truth and will respect you for being honest with them. They will deliver accordingly. Trust me.
Sometimes you need to keep secrets. If that is the case, at least be honest about the reason why (a security clearance or NDA contract are perfectly viable excuses). As hard as it may be for some people to accept, the honest explanation goes a long way. Don’t hide, don’t ignore, don’t dodge the question. Be as honest as you can when you can.
When I was twelve years old, I would wake up screaming at night after failing to wrap my head around the notion of mortality. I simply could not process the thought of being dead, the thought of not thinking anymore. As I got older, I discovered three different methods for overcoming fear of death:
- Ignorance. Forget inevitability and have a blast instead. Party the night away.
- Devaluation. See less value in what you have to offer and therefore see less value in your life.
- Faith. Accept the balancing and cyclical dynamics of the universe. Trust that life will level out naturally.
I’ve tried all three. Frankly, method two can go to hell. We all have value; we just need to discover it. And I am not a fan of ignorance, so the first method does not work for me either. If you can live life by the seat of your pants and skip past rational thought, by all means have loads of fun. I just ask too many questions to sit back and play along with you.
It takes bravery to invest in the natural processes of the universe and go with the flow. It is damn near impossible to trust things we cannot explain. But those forces are out there and all around us, whether you want them to be or not. You can either fight them or embrace them.
Live. Love. Laugh. Trust. Share. Learn. Go with the flow.
Step 1: Invite Trust by listening. For someone to trust you, he or she must first be comfortable enough to share with you. You can make them feel comfortable by listening well, patiently and without judgement. Let them know you truly care.
Step 2: Affirm Trust by making a promise. When you identify an actionable promise you can make (keeping a secret, reaching out, delivering results), acknowledge it with a nod, hug or “you can trust me.” Be sure it is a promise you can keep.
Step 3: Validate Trust by keeping that promise. Without question, deliver on your word. The negative effect of breaking a promise can produce far more noticeable results than the positive effect of fulfilling one. You may never be praised for keeping a secret, but you can certainly cripple your reputation by sharing it. Remind the person that trust does not have to end here.
Repeat these steps enough and you can earn everyone’s trust effortlessly.