Build Trust with Anyone Using These 10 Proven Strategies
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
If you are launching a company, success in your work will always boil down to your ability to build trust with new people. Prospective customers, potential employees, possible investors -- all people you want to buy into your vision and follow your lead. And that begins with establishing trust, both verbally and non-verbally, to make sure that whoever you're meeting feels secure and understood.
To establish trust, Robert Hurley, a professor of management at Fordham University and the author of The Decision to Trust, recommends using the CBASIC method – communication, benevolence, aligned interests, similarities, integrity and competence. When someone is looking for a reason to trust you, those are the benchmarks they want to see.
To enter into a business relationship with you, the other party needs to believe that you are communicating with them openly and honestly and that you have their best interests in mind. People will feel more comfortable with you if they think you have a common approach to business or a shared sensibility. But, if you aren't consistent, or you don't have the skills to back up your promises, the relationship will break down.
"There are two dimensions to how people make trust decisions. There is a preconscious, automatic decision to trust. And then there is a conscious, slow decision to trust. When you think about body language -- that person looks skittish and nervous, or doesn't look me in the eye -- those are more the non-verbal, preconscious ways that trust is communicated," explains Hurley.
"Anything that communicates listening, empathy, confidence, caring, is going to signal trustworthiness from a preconscious perspective. Those nonverbals register in our brains as signals of trust or distrust in about 100 milliseconds or less." So with less than a second to spare to get someone on your side, what are some things you can to develop that valuable trust?
Make eye contact.
If you don't look someone in the eye when you are in a business scenario, it could seem like you have something to hide. But if you go to the other end of the spectrum and never blink, that could be quite unsettling and even intimidating to your conversation partner. Dr. Travis Bradberry, an emotional intelligence expert and the founder of consulting firm TalentSmart recommends splitting the difference. "The key to eye contact is balance," he says. "Maintaining eye contact for roughly 60 percent of a conversation comes across as interested, friendly and trustworthy."
Showing that you value others’ time as much as your own will help create a trusting relationship between you and your vendor, client or investor. Chelsea Berler, founder and CEO of marketing agency Solamar, says that it is as simple as not leaving them hanging when you need to return a call or an E-mail and honoring your commitments. "Be on time for meetings, and log on to a scheduled call two minutes in advance of start time," advises Berler. "Hold fast to estimated call-end times, and inquire if attendees are free to keep going."
Make them laugh.If you can share a joke with someone you're meeting for the first time, that can be half the battle in diffusing any tension in the room and taking the pressure off your interaction. Smiling can also inspire trust in others. Researchers at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology created a study with two groups. One set of people sent in video introductions and another had to decide whether they wanted to send them money. If the money was sent, the sum was increased, and the recipient had to choose whether to send any back. "The people whose smiles were rated as genuine were also judged to be trustworthy. Senders could actually use the smile as a basis for predicting whether the trustee would share the stakes," wrote Manfred Milinski, a professor at the institute.
Mirror their body language.
When you're meeting someone knew, and you want to develop a positive rapport and engender trust, remember to stand your ground, literally. If you're fidgeting, crossing your arms, twisting your hands, leaning away from your conversation partner, all of that is telegraphing to whoever you're speaking to that something is amiss. Mirroring body language can help put someone else at ease. David DeSteno, a psychology professor at Northeastern University put this theory to the test with help from a humanoid robot named Nexi. “People tend to mimic each other’s body language, which might help them develop intuitions about what other people are feeling -- intuitions about whether they’ll treat them fairly," explains DeSteno.
Ask people questions about themselves. That genuine interest will make them more inclined to let their guard down in the future. "People love to talk about themselves, and they’re likely to remember someone who asks thoughtful, interesting questions, because it makes them feel appreciated and understood," says Dorie Clark, CEO of Clark Strategic Communications. "That’s a lot more potent than someone who simply prattles on about their own accomplishments."
Rely on your network.
So much of building a business comes from networking and relying on your contacts, like former colleagues and mentors, to vouch for you to people who are complete strangers to you. "Trust can be transferred via third parties. If you're in a social network together, and have friends in common, it's good to mention those relationships [when you meet]. If you've had good business dealings with that person, you should mention that, advises Cecily Cooper, an associate professor of management at the University of Miami School of Business Administration.
Even if you do have that vote of confidence from the friend in common, make sure that you are the one to put your cards on the table. If, for example, you are coming off of a business failure -- perhaps there was a legal issue involved – be transparent and don’t allow the discovery of the news come from any other source.
"If there is something in a person's past that might call their trustworthiness into question, then they need to make sure that they address explicitly with the other party," says Cooper. "If there is anything in the past that the other person is going to know about, they should bring it up in the conversation and address it so it's not the elephant in the room." Defusing any of that tension with honesty can go a long way toward cementing a positive relationship.
Use courtesy and formalities as your guide.
So what happens once you do have a working relationship with another business or vendor, and you run into some thorny territory with them, like a negotiation? If you're meeting with people who are going to have a major impact on your company, you're going to be on edge. It's likely that you've gone over how the meeting might go, maybe even practiced in the mirror or on your dog. But remember not to jump right in with questions or start in the middle conversation that you've had in your head.
Judith Glaser, the founder and CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc., says that putting people at ease begins with a simple and confident greeting. "Go over to them, look them in the eye, shake their hand and say, 'It’s so good to see you again.' This little exchange is not little for people who have any doubts in their mind about what might happen. It actually moves people over to the side of, 'Oh, we're in a better place than we thought.’"
Get on the same level.
Part of developing trust is reducing fear and uncertainty, and that comes with advanced planning. Glaser advises that in a negotiation type of setting, for example, to develop an agenda and send it around ahead of time. Then, once you get there, share the same space instead of looking to grab the power seat.
To level the playing field, she recommends, “Sit on the same side of the table and say, 'Come on over, I wanted to go over some things with you about our agenda.' By sharing the same piece of paper, you're co-creating together. Everything that happens after that is perceived differently than if you were to do the same meeting at opposite ends of the table."
Honor your commitments.
"Entrepreneurs are aspirational. The whole concept of entrepreneurship is that you're building something that doesn’t exist. It's risky. Trust is particularly important in risk, because trust involves vulnerability. If there is no uncertainty, there is no need to calculate trust," Hurley attests. "We want to be careful about excessive exaggeration. That doesn’t mean you shouldn't be excited about your venture, but you want to be careful about overpromising and under-delivering when you're communicating."
We inherently find it difficult to trust people who are impulsive and exhibit unpredictable behavior. "You have to manifest and demonstrate to those whose trust you want to earn that you're [able] to deliver on your commitments," says Hurley. Someone is who is considered trustworthy is someone who keeps their promises.