Because trust is such an important factor in a negotiation, we would like to share this article with you:
The Essential Importance Of Trust: How To Build It Or Restore It
Author: Dennis Jaffe; Click here to view the original article.
There are just a few elemental forces that hold our world together. The one that’s the glue of society is called trust. Its presence cements relationships by allowing people to live and work together, feel safe and belong to a group. Trust in a leader allows organizations and communities to flourish, while the absence of trust can cause fragmentation, conflict and even war. That’s why we need to trust our leaders, our family members, our friends and our co-workers, albeit in different ways.
Trust is hard to define, but we do know when it’s lost. When that happens, we withdraw our energy and level of engagement. We go on an internal strike, not wanting to be sympathetic to the person who we feel has hurt us or treated us wrongly. We may not show it outwardly, but we are less likely to tell the formerly trusted person that we are upset, to share what is important to us or to follow through on commitments. As a result, we pull back from that person and no longer feel part of their world. This loss of trust can be obvious or somewhat hidden — especially if we pretend to be present but inwardly disengage. And those who have done something to lose our trust may not even know it.
On the positive side, trust makes people feel eager to be part of a relationship or group, with a shared purpose and a willingness to depend on each other. When trust is intact, we will willingly contribute what is needed, not just by offering our presence, but also by sharing our dedication, talent, energy and honest thoughts on how the relationship or group is working.
One dictionary definition of trust is “feeling safe when vulnerable.” When we depend on a leader, family member or friend, we can feel vulnerable, and we need trust to manage the anxiety of this feeling. When trust is present, things go well; but when trust is lost, the relationship is at risk.
If the level of trust is low in a relationship or organization, people limit their involvement and what they are willing to do or share. They might think to themselves, “This is all you deserve,” or, “This is as all I am willing to give.” In contrast, when the trust level is high, people reward it by giving more. But, more often than not, people feel that their distrust is not safe to share. So a leader or loved one may be slow to discover that they have lost a person’s trust.
The hiddenness and personal nature of trust can be a problem for relationships, teams or organizations. How can you fix something that is not expressed or shared? How do you even know that trust is lost? Paradoxically, there must be at least a little trust in order to discuss its lack and make attempts to rebuild it, while if the loss of trust remains unaddressed, the relationship will grow more and more distant.
Trust is often related to leadership and power, but it is not a given. To be effective, a leader must earn the trust of his or her constituents to ensure their participation and allegiance. Indeed, any successful relationship — whether it’s leader to follower, consultant or coach to client or the relationship between spouses, siblings and friends — relies on a level of trust that must be earned. Yet even trust that is earned can be quickly lost and cannot be quickly regained. If members of a team or relationship lose trust in each other, it takes a great deal of work to restore it. People are not quick to reinvest in a relationship where trust has been broken. They generally move on.
Six Building Blocks of Trust
Since trust is so important in both working and personal relationships, how can we monitor it, build upon it and heal it when it becomes frayed? It is useful to view trust as a natural response to certain qualities in a person, group or organization, and the absence of these qualities will diminish the level of trust.
These qualities are:
- Reliability and Dependability: A person or group that is true to their word and fulfills their commitments encourages trust.
- Transparency: People are anxious about unknowns and tend to assume the worst when they’re not informed about a new development. When management meets in secret or does not share important information, team members can easily become distrustful. On the other hand, when people share their thoughts, feelings and considerations, or when an organization, usually through its leader, tells its members what is going on, everyone knows where they stand and trust can flourish.
- Competency: This is another element that is central to building trust. If you think a person, leader or organization is not capable of doing what they are supposed to do, you cannot trust them. Therefore, even when a person has a good heart or good intentions and we like them personally, they cannot win our trust if they’re not capable of doing what they promise.
- Sincerity, Authenticity and Congruency: People can often sense when someone says something that is not aligned with what they are feeling inside. When a leader is insincere or inauthentic, people don’t believe what he or she is saying. A leader who says one thing but who acts differently is not congruent. For example, it is hard to believe someone who says they want to listen but does not give you a chance to speak, or someone who says she is concerned about people yet seems to have a plan to lay people off. People may think they can hide their true feelings or contradictions, but others can quickly detect a lack of sincerity or congruency. That’s when trust is eroded.
- Fairness: Some people act as if the needs and desires of others are not important, or they don’t truly listen to or respect both sides. Trust cannot grow in a relationship where it’s all about one person or in a workplace where all the energy is focused on the company or leader.
- Openness and Vulnerability: If a person never says they are wrong and apologizes or acknowledges their mistakes, other people do not feel comfortable disagreeing with them or sharing their own thoughts. A leader who is “never wrong” never gets the truth from others. Yet a timely apology or admission of being wrong is a powerful weapon to build or rebuild trust.
All of these qualities contribute to the degree of trust people have for each other. If you are feeling a shift of trust in a relationship, it is helpful to assess the presence or absence of each of these six qualities. This allows you to discover what is lacking in the relationship and find ways to restore trust. To build or rebuild trust, a leader must open the conversation about the degree to which each of the six qualities are present and be open to hearing what others feel, observe and need. Of course, the leader will need some trust in the others in order to begin this process.
Similarly, it takes courage in a family or personal relationship to bring up loss of trust and to request that another person modify their behavior. This may lead to learning that you need to look at your own behavior too. Trust is a two-way street, built by the behavior of each person in the relationship.
Restoring Trust That’s Been Lost or Broken
Trust is often lost when we feel hurt by another’s action and believe that this action (or inaction) was intentional. But by sharing our feelings with the person who hurt us, we might begin to see things differently and realize that their intention was not what we imagined. This may repair the breach quickly as misunderstandings are unraveled and communication deepens. It may be difficult to initiate such a conversation; however, given the tendency to withdraw when we feel hurt. Still, a person who is able to do this will find that they are less frequently hurt.
In the same way, if we feel that we have done something to lose the trust of another, we can seek the other out and inquire about what has happened. True, this can feel awkward and risky — especially if one is a leader, parent or person of authority — and this is not something that comes naturally. But this willingness to be vulnerable can ultimately lead to greater trust because the other person feels that their own vulnerability and needs are being respected. The dynamics of trust are delicate in important relationships, and the loss of trust can be costly — not only psychologically, but also financially and in terms or work and livelihood. What’s helpful to remember is that trust is an ongoing exchange between people and is not static. Trust can be earned. It can be lost. And it can be regained.
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