Winning Trust: A Step-By-Step Guide
Trust is the fabric that binds us together, creating an orderly, civilized society from chaos and anarchy. Trust is not an abstract, theoretical, idealistic goal forever beyond our reach. Trust –– or lack of it –– is inherent in every action that we take and affects everything that we do. Trust is the cement that binds relationships, keeping spouses together, business deals intact, and political systems stable. Without trust, marriages fails, voters become apathetic, and organizations flounder. Without trust, no company can ever hope for excellence.
Understanding the meaning of trust allows you to work toward being a trusted and trusting person. The truth is that trust is never guaranteed, and it can’t be won overnight. Trust must be carefully constructed, vigorously nurtured, and constantly reinforced. Trust is established over time, gradually, through a long chain of successful experiences. In the early stages of relationships, whether personal or business, we extend ourselves in small ways and observe the responses to our actions. Then we take appropriate action, withdrawing, maintaining our behavior, or extending ourselves a bit further each time until trust is established. Although trust takes a long time to develop, it can be destroyed by a single action. Moreover, once lost, it is very difficult to re-establish.
Building trusting relationships is a process that can best be described as stacking layers on a foundation one at a time in such a way that each layer bonds on top of the prior one before another layer is added.
In a world where time is a precious resource, where we must often move without having the time to explore all the options, we use shortcuts to circumvent the process. For this reason, an individual’s or organization’s history or track record is often evaluated to gauge how we may be treated in a relationship.
Trust: First stage
The foundation, or first stage, represents the beginning of a relationship and depicts the history of those involved. We generally start off with some preconceived notion about others. We meet and develop first impressions about people through the friends we have in common; watching how they treat others; the things they talk about in meetings, while commuting, at parties; and general observations during work. We develop first impressions of companies by seeing an advertisement, getting references from people, or reading articles about them on the Internet.
Trust: Second stage
Support structure | The values on which trust rests
The second stage represents values that lead to trusting relationships, such as integrity, reliability, and openness. Once these characteristics are demonstrated, they form the support structure of a trusting relationship. When these actions are repeated time and time again, the relationship is strengthened and becomes part of the framework of the next phase.
Trust: Third stage
The third stage, consistency, enables us to anticipate probable actions. It provides a certain degree of comfort that helps us to maintain the relationship even through difficult times.
Trust: Fourth stage
From predictability to faith
The fourth stage is faith––as these layers are stacked on top of the other three stages, everything that came before them strengthens the framework. This is the stage at which actions are so
predictable that we don’t consciously have to think about the relationship. At this phase, trust has become so integral a part of the relationship that we expect it to work. At their peak, relationships imbued with trust are bonded together by a faith so strong that it is very difficult to destroy the relationship. It is at this stage that people allow themselves to become entirely vulnerable to others.
In our next post, we’ll hone in on Phase One: “How To Create a Foundation of Trust.”
Posted by Frank Sonnenberg on Tuesday, February 5, 2013