A Relationship Without Trust is a Ticking Time…

Most economic experts agree that our federal deficit is dangerously out of control. It’s a ticking time bomb.

But we’ve got another ticking time bomb on our hands that might even be more dangerous. It’s the lack of truth, honesty, and full transparency. We’re in a trust crisis. And it is showing up in our personal, professional, organizational, and governmental circles.

With my doctoral degrees in communication and psychology, I carefully watch what people say and how they say it. I’m always researching, you might say. And I’m concerned with what I’m seeing.

Let me explain. I listen to several different news programs and I am constantly amazed at how differently the news outlets report or don’t report the various events that are happening. If, for example, a story has ten points, I find that each media outlet will only share a few of those ten points, picking out the ones that fit with their own biases. That very lack of truth, honesty, and full transparency has led us to the trust crisis we’re in today.

That’s scary. Because trust is a must or your relationships will bust. And that goes for every one of your relationships … your relationship with your spouse, kids, friends, boss, coworkers, customers, and government.

If we’re going to get the very best out of our relationships, we must keep the trust going, or re-build the trust we need. As Sissela Bok says so well in her book, Lying,

“Whatever matters to human beings, trust is the atmosphere in which it thrives.”

Fortunately, you can build more trust with just about anyone, if you know how. Here are a few tips for starters.

► 1. Start with the presumption of trust.

Trust starts with a belief in the other person — because trust is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you mistrust one of your employees, for instance, if you suspiciously watch that employee every minute, you will find some behavior that confirms your mistrust. No one does very well in that kind of environment.

On the other hand, if you believe in an employee, if you trust an employee to do his or her best, you will have an employee that is much more likely to do well. They feel supported and encouraged and, as a result, produce better results.

You tend to get what you expect. So begin the trust-building process by presuming you can trust the other person. You don’t start with suspicion and judgment.

Of course, some of you will say, “Hold it. Not all people are trustworthy. Some people will disappoint you no matter how much you believe in them.” True. But I like the way B.C. Forbes, the founder of Forbes magazine put it:

“Better to be occasionally cheated than perpetually suspicious.”

And legendary basketball coach John Wooden added:

“It is better to trust and be disappointed occasionally than to distrust and be miserable all the time.”

If you want to build trust, you’ve got to trust. You’ve got to take a leap of faith. You can’t be like that mother that told her child, “You can’t go in the water until you learn to swim.” Well, you can’t learn to swim if you don’t go in the water and you can’t learn to trust without trusting.

► 2. Be more open.

This builds trust on three levels. It applies to you as an individual, to you as a member of a team, and to organizations and the information they share.

Individually speaking, it’s a lot easier to trust someone if you know what he thinks, how he feels, and where he plans to go. And it’s a lot easier to trust someone who volunteers such information or who is open about such things.

By contrast, it’s very difficult to trust someone who keeps a bunch of secrets or surprises in her back pocket. And it’s difficult to work with someone who withholds a great deal of information.

Ask yourself how open you are. Would you like others to behave exactly as you do when it comes to the openness that builds trust with others? What changes, if any, do you need to make when it comes to openness in your relationships?

With regard to building more trust at the team level, get everyone in a meeting to participate. If you have some quiet people on your team, from time to time ask for their feedback. Ask them how they’re reacting.

And that means asking more than surface, yes or no questions. It means more than asking, “Are you okay with this?” More often than not, those kinds of questions won’t get much of a response. The quiet people will give a polite “Yes” or “Yeah, I’m okay.” But that doesn’t tell you very much.

So try a behavioral description … followed by a question. For example, “I notice you haven’t said anything for 30 minutes” or “I notice you looking down. What are you thinking about all of this?” You’ll probably get a much more informative response.

Or try the “one-word go-around.” Go around the circle and ask each team member to describe how he or she feels in one word. You’ll often be surprised by the answers.

With regard to building trust on the organizational level, openness refers to keeping people informed. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that to be true. They asked 50,000 employees to rank the ten factors that most influenced their trust and morale back on the job. They ranked “openness” or “being kept fully informed” as the second most important piece in the morale-building, trust-building process.

Unfortunately, many companies fall short of this openness ideal. I remember speaking to a group of employees who came to my seminar filled with anger. They had just read in the newspaper that one-third of their jobs would be eliminated in the next three months. That was the first time they had heard about the downsizing. Obviously, they didn’t feel very important and they didn’t feel very respected when the public knew more about their company than they did. They had a hard time trusting their company forever after.

Final Thought: One of my professors, when I was in college, Dr. David Johnson, summarized the importance of trust when he said, “Little happens in a relationship until individuals learn to trust each other.”