What Introductions Can Teach Us About Trust

parachute jumpersI’m in Washington, D.C. this week, giving a Being Trusted Advisors training session along with the rest of our staff. There is an exercise I like around introductions.

Rather than the usual ‘let’s go around the table and introduce ourselves,’ we ask people to quickly state their company (or title/role if it’s an internal training), followed by two questions:

1. Tell the group how many months you’ve been with (company name), and
2. Tell the group an interesting tidbit or factoid about yourself—something a little bit unusual, quirky, interesting, not an every-day business fact about yourself.

I ask everyone in the room in random order to quickly answer the two questions. The debrief is then: why do you think I asked us to take X minutes doing this?

The usual answers are to establish a group identity, to begin creating trust, to get people focused in on the room. True, true, and true.

Then I’ll stand behind one person and ask the group: “how many months was Joe here with his company?” A few people remember; often they remember different numbers.

I’ll then ask, “What was Joe’s interesting tidbit or factoid?”

The whole group responds immediately: “Arrived late to his own wedding,” or “chickened out parachuting last weekend,” or whatever.

We have a good time with that one, talking about why we remember personal tidbits more than we remember data. But what’s really interesting is: so what?

What should we do with the observation that people remember personal quirks and stories and anecdotes more than they do objective data?

What should a client relationship manager do with that observation? A salesperson? An accountant?

What should you do with that observation? 

4 replies
  1. peter vajda
    peter vajda says:

    Personally, I don’t think one has to "do" anything, i.,e., "act."

    What might be supportive is, upon hearing the disclosure, take a deep breath, sense inside yourself and then sense the space between you and that individual, first when you hear the "time with organization" item and then when you hear the "personal" item. My experience is, with the former, the space feels cold, cool, empty, or distant and with the latter, warm(er), less distant, soft(er). Perhaps even sensing your breath with the two disclosures. See where your breath is…throat or belly/abdomen. The higher it is, the more stressed one is; the lower, the more relaxed. When we open up with one another, we tend to become more relaxed. We let our guard down a bit and become less defended.

    Usually with the first, yes, there can be a common, unspoken "so what?" response. With the second, often there’s an unspoken "hmm" and this "hmm" is one way into connection and communion with another.  

    As you suggest, self-disclosure is a first step towards allowing one’s vulnerability and being vulnerable is a first step towards building trust.

    I might also suggest having the participants take 5-10 seconds between the two disclosures so others have time to take it in and integrate it and consciously experience how it resonates.   


  2. Erica Stritch - RainToday.com
    Erica Stritch - RainToday.com says:


    What a great exercise–one that I’ll be sharing with our trainers and coaches. What really came through in this example is the power of stories. What you are asking them to do is to first "tell" something about themselves and then to "share" a story about themselves. Time and time again people remember the story.

    In a sales situation this relates to "telling" clients and prospects about your services versus "showing" them how you’ve helped your clients through stories.

    Which do you think a prospect or client is more likely to remember:

    1) Someone telling them all about how great their accounting services are and what they can do for you.

    2) Someone sharing a story of how they helped a specific client who was in a similar situation.

    Nine times out of ten I’d put my money on the prospect remembering #2.

    So in your sales conversations, share stories about how you’ve helped other clients. Demonstrate that you have experience in your area of expertise. It will be more memorable and help you stand out from the other accountants who are simply telling prospects about their services.


  3. Dave Kipp
    Dave Kipp says:

    Our belief is that "All business is personal. We like it that way." It’s acutely true in the professions, where a firms health and welfare follows the Trust Quotient of the practitioners. Human being are wired to be social, to relate and respond to the personal.

    Great post !


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