There are two sides to trust: the first is outward-looking and grows from a person’s past experiences with that particular person or group; the second is inward-looking and comes from the person’s own history, particularly from childhood experiences.The level of trust that anyone feels is fed by both of these sources. You have control over the outward-facing source, so start there.
The technique is simple—simple to explain anyway: start being trustworthy.
Trustworthiness is encouraged by a number of actions that are within your power to take:
1. Do what you say you will do. Don’t make promises you can’t or won’t keep. Most people’s mistrust has come from the untrustworthy actions of others in the past.
2. If for any reason you cannot follow through on a promise, warn the person as soon as the situation becomes clear to you, and explain the circumstances that led to your failure to do what you promised.
3. Listen to people carefully and tell them what you think they are saying. If you have it wrong, accept the correction and revise what you say. People trust most the people whom they believe understand them.
4. Understand what matters to people and work hard to protect anything that is related to what matters to them. People trust those who are looking out for their best interests.
5. Share yourself honestly.A lot of mistrust begins when people are unable to read you. And remember: while hiding your shortcomings may polish your image, it ultimately undermines people’s trust in you. Admitting an untrustworthy action is itself a trustworthy action.
“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Mark Twain
6. Ask for feedback and acknowledge unasked-for feedback on the subject of your own trustworthiness whenever it is given. Regard it as valuable information and reflect on it. Feedback may be biased, and you don’t have to swallow it whole. But check it for important half-truths.
“He who mistrusts most should be trusted least”. – Greek Poet
7. Don’t try to push others to trust you further than you trust them. You will communicate subtly whatever mistrust you are feeling, and it will be returned to you in kind. Trust is mutual, or else it is very shallow.
8. Try extending your trust of others a little further than you normally would. Being trusted makes a person more trustworthy, and trustworthy people are more trusting.
9. Don’t confuse being trustworthy with “being a buddy.” Being a buddy for any purpose besides friendship is an untrustworthy act. Besides, trust doesn’t automatically come with friendship.
10. Don’t be surprised if your trust-building project is viewed suspiciously. Asking people to let go of their old mistrust of managers (and of you in particular) puts them into a significant (and dangerous-feeling) transition. Their mistrust—justified or not—was a form of self-protection, and no one gives up self-protection easily.
11. If all of this is too complicated to remember and you want a single key to the building of trust, just remind yourself, “Tell the truth.”
As to what you can do with the inner face of mistrust—which goes back to people’s childhoods—the same advice holds true. The difference is that if a person’s history has reinforced their mistrust of others, you will make even slower headway than you will in combating the mistrust you’ve earned by your own actions. But you can make headway with even the most mistrustful person, so get started.
Every hour that mistrust continues makes transition more difficult to manage than it has to be.
Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change