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Trust: what it is, and how to initiate it

Monday, 1 June 2020

Trust. The big kahuna. The sales industry seeks it; doctors assume it; couples demand it; change can’t occur without it. But what is it? Why isn’t it easier to achieve? And how can we engender it in relationships?

I define trust as the awareness of Another as being safe, similar, and sane enough to connect with, and occurs when they

  • have core beliefs that align and seem harmonious with mine,
  • feel heard, accepted, and understood by me,
  • feel compatible or safe as a result of our interacting,
  • believe their status quo won’t be at risk when connected to me.

Unless these criteria are satisfied, trust can’t occur no matter how kind, professional, necessary, or well-intended another person or message is. It’s a Belief issue.

BELIEFS DEFINE US

We gravitate to, and trust, folks with similar foundational Beliefs and world-views that match well-enough with our own to proclaim “safety”. The problem is that when trying to connect with another, we’re at the effect of their unconscious filters that immediately signal “risk” when there is a perceived misalignment between our Beliefs.

Largely unconscious, illogical to others and hard to change, our Beliefs have been created during the course of our lives; they regulate us, define who we are and are the glue that enables us to show up congruently in the world. We even listen through ears biased by our Beliefs.

Beliefs instigate our habits and assumptions, restricting our life choices such as our occupations, politics, values, mates – even our child rearing practices. And our Beliefs are the initiators of our behaviors – behaviors being Beliefs in action.

Sadly, because everyone’s Belief systems are unconscious and idiosyncratic, we can’t accurately perceive Another’s internal system of rules, values, history, habits, experiences etc.We choose our friends according to matching Beliefs; it gets problematic when we need a trusting relationship to accomplish our goals and we’re not clear how to achieve it.

For those folks whose jobs are to influence, there’s an immediate problem. The stories, content, data they seek to share, or their one-sided agenda, may offend the Belief system of the Communication Partner (CP). Bad news for sellers, coaches, managers, etc. who attempt to promote change or buy-in by pushing their ideas, expecting us to accept them, but instead unwittingly causing resistance and distrust.

DRIVERS FOR TRUST

Here are some of the ways we fail when trying to engage trust.

Relationship Building: We’ve been led to believe that having a relationship encourages buy-in to new ideas. But it’s a conundrum: polite as an interaction appears or how necessary our message, we can’t build a relationship with folks with divergent Beliefs, or fight their automatic filters that react to us immediately, regardless of the efficacy of the information. In other words, “pushing in” doesn’t work, even if our data and intent are accurate, and even if we think we have a relationship that entitles us to ‘share.’  We might have a superficial connection, but not a relationship; “making nice” does not constitute a relationship, or engender change or trust.

Information: Our chosen vehicle to “get in” is often with information that we believe they need, without accounting for how it will be perceived. Sometimes, with the best will in the world, our brilliant attempt to share the “right” data inadvertently tells our CP that they’re wrong (and we’re right). When we try to motivate, push, share, persuade, etc. we fail to realize that our CPs only understand our intent to the degree it matches their Beliefs, as well as how their listening filters translate it for them, regardless of its efficacy. So with the best will in the world, with folks who might really need what we’ve got to share, we aren’t heeded.

In fact, information is the last thing needed to facilitate change or buy-in, as everyone is pretty protective of their status quo and fears the new information carries the risk of disruption. So save the information sharing for when there’s a clear path to mutual Beliefs and trust has been developed, and then offer the information in a format that matches Beliefs. Think about it: if you’re an environmentalist, offering “rational/scientific” data that “prove” climate change won’t persuade those who disagree; if you’re a proponent of doctors, you won’t use alternate therapies to manage an illness no matter how strong the data for changing your nutrition.

Clear Communication: We all think we communicate clearly, yet we’re not as effective as we think given our CPs unconscious, biased listening filters that end up preventing our “risky” data from being heard accurately. Certainly we believe we’re choosing the “right” words and approach to convey our intent. Yet our message is heard only by those with similar Beliefs and resisted by the very people who need our information the most.

Since our great ideas and eager strategies don’t engender trust in folks with different Beliefs, and without trust we can’t change minds, what should we do? Instead of entering conversations wanting them to act according to our needs, why not facilitate them through their Beliefs to discover if they are in Excellence, and if not, what would they need to do to find it. In this way we can help our CPs open up new possibility in ways that don’t feel invasive but actually create trust. But they have to do it themselves.

BELIEFS RULE

Every one of us has Beliefs unique to us, and comprises our status quo. Our Beliefs are the norms and rules we live by, rules that we have developed over our lifetimes to make decisions and act against. Right or wrong, everyone’s Beliefs are normalized, unconscious, and unique, certainly unknowable to an outsider; as coaches, sellers, and leaders, we must carefully initiate relationships and conversations with a goal to match their Belief criteria before considering offering new ideas.

When we wish to engender trust with our CPs it’s possible to use languaging in a way that puts us on the same side of the table as our partners:

  1. Enter each conversation with the goal of assisting your CPs in discovering Beliefs and behaviors. Entering with the goal to offer information, or get your question answered, or extract promises of action will automatically engender distrust and resistance.
  2. Ask the type of questions that facilitate and enable internal discovery; conventional questions merely pull data biased by the needs of the Asker. I designed Facilitative Questions (see below) that enable congruent change without bias by leading the CP through their unique route to discovery. So instead of gathering data for themselves, these questions are directive to the ‘other’ to discover their own Beliefs attached to change.
  3. There is a specific series of steps that change entails. I’ve spent decades coding the steps of change for decision making a new habit generation. These that enable change facilitators to promote congruent change in others by leading them down their own choice points. Learn the steps, and help your CP traverse  the steps to match Beliefs and encourage acceptance prior to mentioning your idea.
  4. Trust that your CP has her own answers and that she’ll shift toward excellence as appropriate for her. It won’t show up exactly as you’d hoped; but there will be a new opening for collaboration without resistance.
  5. Understand that until or unless your CP can recognize his own incongruences, there is no way he’ll welcome comments from you that sound like you’re saying he’s wrong or insufficient.

In other words, create a Beliefs-based bond that will open the possibility of you offering information later, once  they’ve discovered exactly where they need it and how to use it.

FACILITATING TRUST THROUGH QUESTIONS

I’ve developed a new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that teaches others to scan their own internal state. These questions are unbiased, systemic, formulated with specific wording, in a specific order. They also take our CPs into a Witness state, beyond their automatic responses, and from which they can have a neutral, unbiased look at their status quo to notice if it’s operating excellently, and consider change if there might be a more congruent path.

Here’s a story. During a training program, a student showed everyone pictures of his 2-year-old twin daughters (adorable) and his beautiful wife. Once outside during the first break, he lit up a cigarette. It was hard to believe that he hadn’t heard that smoking wasn’t a healthy choice, but there was some Belief that kept him smoking and information hadn’t enabled him to quit. My job became helping him reprioritize his Hierarchy.

I went over and posed a Facilitative Question:

“What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to be alive and healthy by the time your daughters graduate university?”

He threw his cigarette, and the entire pack, away; he called me 6 years later to tell me he still wasn’t smoking. That one Facilitative Question brought him to his Witness place and enabled him to use his own criteria for discovery and change and put his children high up in his conscious thinking. By enabling him to observe himself to find his own unconscious drivers, I helped him make his own change. If I told him cigarettes were unhealthy, I’d be challenging his Identity about his choices and trying to shove information into an unknown Hierarchy, certainly to meet with resistance.

Once people discover their own incongruence they’re happy to change. But offering data doesn’t accomplish this. Take a look at a conventional question vs a Facilitative Question:

Conventional: Do you think it’s time for a haircut? or Why do you wear your hair that way?

Telling someone they need a haircut, or asking them if they noticed they need a haircut, or giving them an article on new types of hair styles – all based on your own need to convince your CP to change – will cause defensiveness and distrust.

Facilitative Question: How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle?

This leads your CP

  • into a Witness state,
  • beyond their resistance and reaction,
  • outside of their normal unconscious reactions,
  • to notice the exact criteria they need to consider change and
  • to open the possibility for new choices that match their own Beliefs.

By using this type of question down the steps of internal change, we offer a route for the CP to discover their own best answer that aligns with their Beliefs and engenders trust. No push, no need for a specific response. Serving another by helping them discover their own Excellence.

But take care: these questions take a few weeks to learn to formulate. They use an entirely different belief system, different goals, different outcomes; they need specific words in a very specific order to capture specific parts of the CPs brain; they need a knowledge of memory channels. In other words, they are quite complex. Many folks have attempted to ‘borrow’ a few of my Facilitative Questions, rework them a bit, and try to use them in the same way actual Facilitative Questions are used. But it merely causes distrust; taken out of context, used out of sequence or employing words in the wrong order, they become highly manipulative and off-putting. For those wishing to learn to formulate them, here is a learning accelerator.

I designed these questions as part of my Buying Facilitation® model, a generic change facilitation model (often used in sales) that enables congruent change. Sounds a bit wonky, I know, and it’s certainly not conventional. But worth researching. I’ve trained large numbers of sales folks and coaches over the past 40 years against control groups and a 40% success rate. When we facilitate our CPs down their path to conscious choice, we

  • help them discover their incongruencies,
  • help them understand the areas at risk,
  • help them develop their own route to managing risk (i.e. change) and where they can’t do it themselves,
  • enable buy-in from the elements that will be effected.

Until your audience is able to accomplish this, they will hear you through biased ears, maintain their barriers, and engender trust only with those who they feel aligned with – omitting a large audience of those who may need you. Stop using your own biases to engender trust: facilitate your CPs in changing themselves. Then the choice of the best solution becomes a consequence of a system that is ready, willing, and able to adopt Excellence. And they’ll trust you because you helped them help themselves.

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Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with IntegrityDirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. Sharon Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.