It seems every time I talk to someone today the issue of trust comes up somewhere within the conversation. From these conversations I have inferred that many people don’t experience as much trust as they desire and that fewer people yet feel confident in their ability to build trust. It appears that there is a lack of trust today, but a strong desire to experience it more.
At some point in my conversation I usually hear these questions; “How do you build trust? Isn’t there some exercise or activity that you can share with me to develop trust?” And unfortunately, the answers are not as easy as we would like. They may be very simple answers, but not very easy to implement. The answers are; you build trust by being trustworthy and no, there are no magical exercises for building trust.
While trust is the most important aspect of human relations, it is also the most difficult to establish. While I have said before, a critical element to being trustworthy is being vulnerable. And just last week someone mentioned that in order for someone to be vulnerable you have to know you can trust the other person. So it appears that you have to wait until trust has been demonstrated by the other person before you can be vulnerable and, therefore, trustworthy. If this is the case, we will have individuals waiting for others to make the first step for a long time. I don’t think we can wait that long. We don’t have the time in today’s world to wait until trust has been demonstrated before we practice it ourselves.
So, I want to share with you some practical tools for being proactive and demonstrating that you are vulnerable and, therefore, trustworthy. First, it always starts with us. I must first work at understanding the other person. If I want to demonstrate that I am trustworthy, I must try as hard as I can to understand the other person’s point of point before I even think about sharing my point of view. And I must demonstrate that understanding. I must be able to share back my understanding of what I heard in such a way that the individual says, “You’ve got it. You now know what it is I’m feeling and why I’m feeling that way.”
By demonstrating that I understand, in no way infers that I agree with the other person’s perspective. It only means I understand that perspective. I can 100% disagree with that perspective, but I understand it and why the person has that perspective. When I demonstrate this understanding, it now leaves the other person with no need to be defensive or try to convince me he or she is right. That person may now be ready to hear my perspective. But, until she or he knows that I “get it,” he or she in no way will ever be able, let alone be willing, to hear my perspective. If nothing has been done to create a foundation of trust, then trust is not a possibility.
However, once I have demonstrated this understanding by actively listening and providing feedback, the other person is now more likely to listen to my perspective. To create the best possible chance for this to happen, I must be able and willing to express my own feelings while never losing sight of their points. I must make my own points with firmness and conviction, but not contradicting or proclaiming their perspective is invalid. I can share my perspective with confidence while honoring the other person’s perspective as well. By not be aggressive or defensive, I can create a climate of openness and vulnerability, thus building a foundation of trust.
Once I have demonstrated understanding of another’s perspective and the ability to share my perspective while being vulnerable, the trust level may have been created for working together on whatever the task is before us.
This process is not easy, but is effective if entered with the proper attitude of vulnerability and mutual learning. Because it is not easy, there are no quick exercises, no silver bullets, to building trust. It takes time and is hard work to build the trust that is the foundation of all human relationships. If it were easy we would not need to spend the time working at it or trying to understand how it works. Instead of lack of trust, we would experience trust everywhere.
Until next time, look for opportunities to be vulnerable and demonstrate your willingness to understand the other perspective before you are so anxious to share your perspective.