Building Trust in a Connected World
Today I offered a client some communication advice. Using specific language that helps their prospect come to a “yes” or “no” decision faster. Shortening the sales cycle. Language that hasn’t changed in many, many years.
This article was sent to emphasize the points I made. Especially the part about the more things change, the more they stay the same. Read on:
I was roused from my slumber by a persistent low-level buzzing. My son’s phone was sitting on the fireplace mantle and in the early, early morning quietude, the vibrating ringer was making the house shake. I ran down to see if there was an issue. The urgent text?
This got me thinking about youth, communication, social media, our “instant world” and trust. After a couple cups of coffee, I’m inspired to share some thoughts on how to build trust in an changing world. (as well as reminding me to be thankful for trade routes but that’s another story)
“The more things change, the more they stay the same” is a tired old trope but it works. The tools we use to communicate have changed and will change, but the fundamentals of communicating effectively remain constant. Consistency, finding mutual benefits, listening and focusing on issues/not being blinded by personalities still drives the cornerstone of relationships: Trust.
I’ll use 4 fundamentals to outline a few points about how to build trust online.
1 – Consistency. A strong building needs a solid foundation, right? (my aunt used to tell me this as she looked at my giant feet as a youth – “don’t worry, you’ll grow into them”) Consistency is the foundation for trust. I’m not talking about “every day he does ‘x'”, but a more nuanced “every day his actions align with our shared values” kind of thing. Our instant world, with it’s increasing storage capacity and searchability, is making it harder to hide our inconsistencies, but on the flip side it helps us draw a line and connection points.
At the risk of sounding flaky, the more in tune you are with your own values and the more those values shape your actions, the easier it is to build instant trust. “This is who I am . . . and look back, it’s basically who I have been over time,” helps with Consistency, and helps build trust. Often in an instant but not by itself.
2 – Finding mutual benefits. Along with Consistency to build trust, is finding mutual benefits. We’re societal creatures, giving up some of our individualism for the greater good. We do this because the sum is greater than the parts, right? We find it mutually beneficial. It’s good for you and it’s good for me. Cialdini’s Law of Reciprocity tells us the when we Do good for others, they want to do good for us. If that’s done correctly, something bigger starts to take shape. In our increasingly instant world, the always on nature of these communication tools either brings Trust faster or takes it away.
Let me address the “takes it away” concept for a second. You’re not going to be trusted by everybody and you can’t trust everyone you meet. We bring our own set of experiences and expectations to relationships and earning or losing trust is part of that.
In the non-connected world we may have never known how someone feels, but in the instant world – the transparent world – you can find out how people feel. And you may not always like it. So stay true to your values. Just understand that everyone doesn’t share those values and therefore won’t be open to your version of mutual benefits.
3 – Listening. Just looking at this word makes me think of Fraser. “I’m listening.” I have written about the “iceberg effect of language in communication” and in our instant world, nothing’s changed. Emoticons, abbreviations, Vines – they’re all attempts at improving our communication and building trust. Listening is part of that. Face to face we have all sorts of checks and balances that help us understand one another. The telephone took some of those tools away, forcing us to be better with voice inflection and language but now we’re forced to try and “listen” to 140 character bursts.
Want to build trust? Turn those 140 characters into listening phrases. The same ones we had to learn on the phone. “Wait, what do you mean by that?” “Explain that again?” “Are you saying. . .?” I know, it’s awkward but just because we can instantly communicate doesn’t mean we instantly understand. Listening is trying to understand. By simply keeping that in mind and not jumping to conclusions, will help build trust.
4 – Focusing on Content. Speaking of conclusions, this topic falls into the “jumping to conclusions” box. Effective communication involves focusing on the message and not the messenger. Focusing on the content of the message and not the messenger or their surroundings. Personality quirks, bad grammar, low light levels, public places. . .all little things that distract me from what you’re saying. I can focus on the distractions, or I can focus on the message, the content. . . focus on the issue.
When you excel at focusing on content, you’re excellent at fostering trust. The comment, “He really understands what I’m saying” gets you further than “he hates it when i don’t use caps”. (That said, if you’re seeking to be understood, it helps to know how the person you’re working with likes to receive communications.)
“What has happened, will happen” is a favorite saying. The process of effective communication and the steps involved in building trust are constants. They’re universal even as the tools we use to communicate change.
If it worked in the past, it will work in the future. Don’t be distracted by the revolutionary claims of Future Connected World. The principles of Building Trust will endure. Focus on them.