How to Accelerate Trust (or Not)

You may have heard the quote, “It takes years to build up trust, and only seconds to destroy it.” That saying, like several other truisms about trust, is far from true.

In many ways, people form perceptions, trusting and non-trusting, with shocking speed.

Furthermore, the way we use that phrase – “trust takes time” – is often more as an excuse than a true explanation.

First Impressions

Think about the last time you visited a doctor you trust: the office is sanitary and organized, with medical degrees and educational diagrams displayed throughout. The doctor greets you in a clean white coat, maybe wearing a stethoscope around her neck, smiling warmly, making eye contact, and asking you how you feel, specifically about what brought you in that day. Do you trust her?

Now picture a different kind of visit: the furniture and equipment is dingy and worn-looking, the receptionist is surly, and – instead of looking you in the eye and smiling – the doctor walks in the room reading your chart and never looks up at you. How trusting do you feel now?

The point is not that you should judge a book by its cover, nor that first impressions are right (or irrevocable). Our brains are wired to instantly assess and categorize every situation, and the rational parts of our brains are usually left having to catch up.

Setting the Foundation

As the above example illustrates, trust can be created from the first instant we interact with someone. The key to accelerating trust is to lay a firm foundation. Here are three steps to help you do just that:

  1. Mind Your Mindset: Before engaging with someone you are hoping to create a trust relationship with, you need the correct mindset. If you come to the table with the belief that trust takes years to build… it will take years to build! If, on the other hand, you are confident you can create trust quickly, trust building can move forward at a rapid pace.
  2. Set Your Intention: Knowing what outcome you want is important, but be careful of jumping the gun on your own intention before trust is built. It’s apparent when someone is engaged in a conversation where they are a pawn in another’s agenda. If you detach from your outcome, you are more likely to achieve it, while you are building trust.
  3. Fully Demonstrate Your Trustworthiness: Unless you’ve never seen The Trust Equation, you probably already know that trustworthiness is more than credibility (degrees hanging on the wall, having the right answer) and reliability (being on time, following up as promised). And you probably know that the emotional aspects of trustworthiness – intimacy and low self-orientation – are the more powerful factors of trust. Be more personal, more human. It’s near impossible to connect with the “I’ve never made a mistake and I know it all” person and, quite frankly, it’s not enjoyable either.

Accelerating Trust

Once the foundation is set, trust can be built quickly, when we are aware of exactly what builds trust, and willing to take some personal risk. For specific actions to accelerate trust, check our our eBook 15 Ways to Build Trust Fast. In the meantime, here are some things to consider about accelerating each aspect of trustworthiness:

Credibility. Although credibility has a lot to do with experience and education, which take time to acquire, it’s not just about what you already bring to the table. Add to your credibility by demonstrating that you are current on topics relevant to your client or industry. Be honest and candid – admit when you don’t know something, and share your point of view when you have one (especially if you are not 100% confident). Be direct and confident (not arrogant) in what you say; use language that is familiar, and align your tone and non-verbals with your message.

Reliability. Reliability is about dependability and predictability: no surprises. Because reliability is about matching actions with promises, it is the only trust variable that takes time. People need multiple data points to see that our actions match our words. The good news is, we can immediately show we are predictable by meeting other’s expectations of timeliness, knowing and using their terminology, and presenting ourselves appropriately to the occasion. We also can create opportunities to demonstrate reliability by setting lots of small expectations and following through.

Intimacy. Many people think intimacy is the area of trustworthiness that takes the most time. Intimacy is the most powerful trust accelerator, and it takes not time, but courage. Be yourself: pretending to be anything else for the sake of building a relationship usually backfires. Take personal risks to show someone you are worthy of them taking the risk to trust you. Understand and acknowledge the other person’s perspective; they will trust you more if they are confident you get where they are coming from.

Self-orientation. High self-orientation – being focused on oneself – creeps into our everyday interactions in all manner of ways, from putting our own needs/wants/priorities (consciously or unconsciously) above those of another, to allowing our attention to wander during a conversation. Clear your mind and truly focus on the other person. Instead of trying to immediately solve their problem, try being curious about their problem. Instead of telling them how smart/nice/dependable you are, detach from your agenda and have faith that, by focusing on their agenda, they will see you for who you are.

Avoid Starting off on the Wrong Foot

Focusing on yourself instead of on the other person. We’ve all done it… someone makes a comment or asks a question, and suddenly we’re off and running, talking about our own experiences instead of listening to what the other person has to say. Once our inappropriate chiming in ends, it’s like the record skips, and we have to endure the awkward silence as we obviously refocus on their story.

People who build good trust relationships consistently focus on the other person. They listen to understand, with the intention of truly engaging, not to find the first opportunity to talk about themselves. Learn to hold back and really focus on what the other person is saying. You’ll get the chance to say what you want, and once you do, the groundwork will be laid for a valuable, trust-building conversation.

Focusing only on the rational aspects of trust. It’s important for someone you are working with, or hoping to work with, to know that you are qualified for the position in terms of education and experience. But that’s secondary to how you make the person feel on a human level. Making someone feel at ease and comfortable in your presence is more powerful than a resume can ever be.

Trust can be built in a moment, and real trust is hard to break, if you have the courage and willingness to build a strong foundation.

It takes practice to feel natural, and you will probably have some missteps along the way. As long as your mindset and intentions are in the right place, give yourself some grace and realize that trust is a journey, not a destination.