In two previous posts, here and here, I’ve written about trust and the importance of building it with people who are – or may become – important in your work and your life. Since then, as I’ve continued to think about building trust, I’ve come up with some additional ideas I’d like to share with you now.
It’s Not About You
When you are interacting with another person, the simple truth is this: The more focused you are on yourself, the higher the barriers to trust. If you want to build trust, cut back on thinking about yourself and your own agenda.
Instead, focus on the other person.
This is a thread that runs through all the ideas I’m going to share in this piece. And it starts with you de-emphasizing your own agenda, priorities, interests, and values.
Of course, you will encounter some individuals willing to trust narcissists: people who cannot stop thinking about themselves and their own agenda. But you will encounter far more people – with far more to contribute to a relationship with you – who view that kind of behavior as a red flag and pull back from it, unwilling to trust people so thoroughly focused on themselves.
Understand and Accept Others
A critical part of getting another person to trust you is for you to offer acceptance. As you may know, or will eventually discover, everyone has their own approach to working and living. It’s based on their native personality, their experiences in the world, their values, their inclinations and priorities, and more.
If you want another person to trust you, you must accept and honor who they are.
Part and parcel of this acceptance is your knowledge and understanding of how they came to be who they are, and what they are trying to accomplish in their work and their life.
This generally entails asking key questions and listening intently to the answers.
You need not agree with them. You need not take their approach as your own. You don’t even need to believe their approach is a good one, or an effective way for them to get where they want to go. You definitely should not try to educate or change them.
But you need to understand and accept them, and relate to them on that basis. Only then will you be in a position to earn their trust.
Offer Them Help
Once you let go of yourself and accept the other person’s native personality, experiences, values, inclinations and priorities, you can begin to earn their trust by helping them, as generously as you can. There are several ways to do this:
- You can offer encouragement and validation for their journey.
- You can ask questions to help them understand their situation better.
- You can help them work out their preferred tactics, strategies, and responses to the situations they face.
- You can contribute some of your efforts and resources to help them accomplish their tasks, projects, and goals.
Notice I have not suggested offering analysis or advice. It doesn’t build trust to tell people what they are doing wrong and how to do it better. That kind of behavior is more likely to build suspicion and pushback.
Instead, you must stay as positive as you can.
Only after the other person trusts and respects you enough to ask for analysis and advice should you consider whether or not to offer some. If you do, offer it gently, and in small doses.
I’ve learned this: the road to interpersonal trust is paved not with self-serving agendas and attitudes, but with a service-oriented approach focused on identifying the other person’s character, desires, and goals, accepting all that without judgment, and doing something to facilitate them.
As you will probably gather from looking back on your own experiences in the world, the people who behave naturally and consistently in this manner are nearly always the people we tend to trust most easily, most willingly, and most gratefully.
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