The ‘Trouble’ with Trust

Building Trust. Not What You Think Then a little while ago, the penny dropped. I realized you can’t ‘build’ trust. It’s an outcome; the result of what you do, like being truthful, reliable, transparent etc. However, trust itself isn’t a doing type of thing. You can’t ‘do’ trust. You gain trust through your actions. Or…

Building Trust. Not What You Think

For years, along with many other people I guess, I’ve banged on about the importance of building trust. I mean that’s a no-brainer. Right?

Then a little while ago, the penny dropped. I realized you can’t ‘build’ trust. It’s an outcome; the result of what you do, like being truthful, reliable, transparent etc. However, trust itself isn’t a doing type of thing. You can’t ‘do’ trust. You gain trust through your actions. Or not.

And the effect isn’t usually immediate. As you do those things trust grows gradually. A person experiences those things and they come to trust you

That led to another penny drop…

While you can’t ‘do’ gaining trust, you can certainly ‘do’ losing trust. That is, whilst losing trust is also an outcome of your actions, it can happen quickly. So quickly that it may as well have been a deliberate action.

Confused?

Well, reflect on the people you distrust. How quickly did you come to that? Think telesales, sellers perhaps, bankers, politicians, whatever. I’d suggest that often that view is pre-wired. We can distrust someone even before we’ve met them.

And what causes us to lose trust in someone? Almost entirely it comes down to their acts of self-interest. You’re less inclined to trust someone who puts their interests ahead of yours. Especially if that disadvantages you, which almost by definition, it does. That said…

Most right-minded people naturally do the things that grow trust,

Yes, even sellers and pollies. They do those things most of the time. Except perhaps when their own interests intrude. They then do the things that lose trust and the effect of those is so much greater than whatever they previously did to grow trust.

That’s the situation for sellers. They are in one of the least-trusted of professions. Google it if you need convincing, And why? Because they come across as self-interested. Now a seller might be entirely selfless. The problem is that’s just not how s/he is invariably seen. Talking about your company, your product, yourself. That’s self-interest.

And so, it’s not that they don’t gain trust. It’s that they proactively lose it. And quickly. Almost as soon as they open their mouths. The traditional seller dialogue is rich with self-interest. Even the ubiquitous ‘how can I help you?’ is code for ‘what can I sell you?

Now there’s an irony in all of this…

We humans are by default, wired to trust. We evolved that way as we needed to form communities to survive and we couldn’t have done that without trust.

That means that (cynics aside) when we first meet someone, we are predisposed to trust them, or at least to not distrust them. Except that is, where they match one of our pre-existing patterns e.g. they’re a ‘typical seller’. And so they’re stereotyped and behind the eight-ball from the get-go.

Bottom Line? Growing trust is less about what to do and more about what not to do.

Where does that leave us?

My advice, and this is a personal opinion based on my experience, not a scientific study, is to not stress about growing trust. You’ll likely do the right things anyway. I mean, telling the truth, being reliable etc are hardly rocket science.  Instead, concentrate on not losing trust. And the way to do that is to not be the stereotype. Don’t match people’s expectations by being that ‘typical’ seller, politician, or whatever. 

The way to do that? Don’t talk about yourself. Simply focus on the other person e.g. your prospect, customer or employee. And do that from the moment you first open your mouth. Make it about them. Whenever you’re having a conversation that’s not about you, you’re essentially gaining trust.

Remember, the other person wants to trust you. Even though they may not themselves realize that. They can’t help it. It’s evolution. And so give them no reason to distrust you and they will naturally come to trust you.

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