As an executive coach and corporate trainer, I am often called upon by people in positions of authority to give them information on how to inspire trust. Because, as this week’s quote suggests, until we are trusted, our ability to influence others will be limited or nonexistent. Unfortunately, few people have any training in how to inspire trust, and, therefore, they simply assume that because they perceive themselves as trustworthy, that people should trust them.
What they don’t understand is that it is actually the perception of others that will determine whether they are trusted, and that this perception depends on three things… empathy, logic, and authenticity. This perspective was first put forth by Frances Frei, a dean at the Harvard Business School, and put to the “real world” test when she was asked by Uber to help turn their culture around. Much like a three-legged stool, if any of these are missing (or “wobbly” as Dr. Frei describes it) trust will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.
Dr Frei describes empathy as the one most people have trouble with because when they are trying to be influential with others, they tend to focus more on what they are saying versus understanding the other’s perspective. Unfortunately, if people don’t feel that we “get it,” so to speak, they will not hear what we say as valuable, which is why Stephen Covey put so much emphasis on his phrase, “Seek first to understand, and then be understood.”
This tendency to try to convince others of the value of our perspective (versus truly understand their’s first) probably comes from growing up in a family where the parents were the authority who pretty much told us what we were supposed to do. Unfortunately, this didn’t always result in our listening and complying as children, and it certainly doesn’t work when we are talking to another adult.
Instead, we need to first understand what is important to this person and/or what they are concerned/worried about, and ensure we communicate this understanding so that they can trust that what we are telling them is good for them as well as us.
Next is authenticity. If people perceive us as being fake or inauthentic, they will naturally be suspicious of what we are saying. This is why trying to hide our displeasure or putting on a “face” while internally resenting the person we are talking to is rarely effective. They sense that we are being inauthentic, and this will get in the way of them trusting us.
The third leg of the stool is logic, which means our communication needs to make sense. The key, however, is to understand the importance of our logic making sense to them. Hopefully, we know how it makes sense to us, however, unless we are able to communicate what we believe in a way that they hear as logical and meaningful to them, trust will not happen.
Of course, for those of you who follow my “Life from the Top of the Mind” philosophy, you know that our ability to engage others so that they see us as empathetic, authentic, and logical, requires that we are coming from the purposeful part of the brain, the neocortex, while our tendency to become annoyed, frustrated, and/or resentful of others come from the lower brain, or brainstem.
Therefore, if we want to be trusted by others, if we want others to hear what we have to say as valuable, we must first know how to access this clear, confident, creative part of who we are and stay in this upper 80% of the brain, even if they are being resistant. The good news is that this is what I teach. I have the pleasure of going around the world helping individuals and organizations come from “The Top of the Mind” in all aspects of life, which maximizes the potential of them being trusted by others.
If you would like to become more skilled at this essential aspect of communication, I suggest you contact me, because until we are able to engage others with empathy, logic, and authenticity, our ability to be trusted by others, and thus be influential with others will be severely limited.
~ All the best, Dr. Bill