“There are no trust neutral interactions… you either build trust or lose trust.” I can’t remember the name of the person who said this at a conference I attended almost 20 years ago, but I can tell you the saying has stuck with me.
I’ve found that I can walk away from each meeting or conversation I have with others and use the simple measuring stick: Did I build trust? Or did I lose trust?
Still, building trust is not always simple. For example, it can be challenging to focus on building trust when confronting an individual or group about a difficult issue. Add to that an emotionally charged discussion and your amygdala can be hijacked, sending out warning signals to protect yourself and shutting down the ability of your pre-frontal cortex to think constructively.
In those situations, it begs the questions: how do you have healthy conversations when you feel pushed to the edge? And more importantly, how do we deal with others to build relationships rather than erode them?
In her book, Conversational Intelligence, Judith Glaser shares how she has coached leaders to build trust by moving from an I-centric to WE-centric focus in her TRUST model below. Her approach integrates how each step impacts our brains in creating safety and allowing the pre-frontal cortex to engage in greater candor, cooperation, and collaboration.
T – Transparency – create transparency which signals “safety” to the amygdala
- I-centric: secrecy, threats, lack of clarity, lack of alignment
- WE-centric: openness, sharing of threats, intentions, aspirations, and objectives; movement toward establishing common, aligned objectives
R- Relationships – focus on connecting with others first, which signals “friend” not “foe”
- I-centric: rejection, resistance, retribution, adversarial relationships, suspicion
- WE-centric: respect, rapport, caring, candor, nonjudgmental listening to deeply connect and build partnership
U – Understanding – see the world from another’s eyes, enhancing bonding and a feeling that “we’re all in this together”
- I-centric: uncertainty, focus on tasks, unrealistic expectations, disappointment, judgment
- WE-centric: understanding, ability to stand in each other’s shoes, empathy for others’ context, seeing another perspective of reality, partnership; support
S – Shared Success – create a shared view of mutual success. Put words and pictures to what success looks like and signaling to the pre-frontal cortex that it’s safe to open up
- I-centric: promotion of self-interest; focus on “I” and “me”; seeking of personal recognition and reward
- WE-centric: bonding with others to create a vision of shared success; building a shared vision that holds space for mutual success; pursuit of shared interests and celebration of shared successes
T- Truth telling and testing assumptions – use candor and caring to build and expand trust
- I-centric: reactions of anger, anxiety, withdrawal, resignation
- WE-centric: regular, open, and nonjudgmental discussion of assumptions and disappointments as part of collaborative problem solving; identification of “reality gaps” and effort to close the gaps for mutual success; willingness to start over again if distrust emerges
Here’s my leadership challenge to you for today: Think about an upcoming difficult meeting or conversation that you are anticipating. How can you apply some of the WE-centric ideas above to your approach?