|By Daniel Robin
The last two articles redefined trust
as being able to predict the other person's behavior, describing some of the dynamics that
help you minimize the risks of counting on others. Like most facets of interpersonal
relations, on that two-way street called "Trust," you'll get where you want to
go if you focus primarily on your own driving. If the other guy is swerving and acting
crazed, skillfully get out of the way.
In other words, if you want trust, focus on how to be trustworthy.
They Call Me ... Mr. Responsible
How is your own conduct? Are you consistent, and reasonably predictable? Or do you do
different things at different times? Some people are what I call "random behavior
generators" -- they're so intent on being hard to peg, without explanation, they'll
rearrange their furniture, change their hairstyle, or shift an opinion mid-sentence, just
to hear people say "How interesting...." Certainly, some mystery is good (or at
least entertaining), and you'll get a better response from people if they understand your
motives, intentions and goals.
How do you know if you're seen as trustworthy? Ask yourself this fifty-cent question:
"To what extent is there alignment between my core values and behavior, my intentions
and actions, my communication and the response I get?" Your mission, should you
choose to accept it: systematically close the gap.
Agreements as Safety Net
Have you experienced times when you felt out of control at work? Nothing went as
planned (planning? what's that?). Agreements also serve as an objective standard for
gathering feedback when "life happens" but the agreement doesn't. Here are five
tips to reliably improve your reliability:
Tip #1: Make fewer and better agreements, and trust will soar
Making fewer and better agreements will help you honor the ones you do make, and deal
more effectively with situations outside your control.
This tip isn't suggesting that you intentionally overcommit but rather that you'd
damage your credibility if you allowed others to hear a "yes" when you didn't
fully mean it. If this happens, who is responsible for their
"hallucination?" They probably are. But handling possible misinterpretations on
the front end is much easier than damage control.
Tip #2: Learn to learn
It's more important to be consistent than to be perfect. Nobody I know, even those with
the highest of integrity, can honor all their agreements all the time. That would require
either perfect self-knowledge or living in a vacuum. So when things go their own way,
focus on learning how to do it better the next time. Act as if there's no such thing as
failure, there's only feedback.
It takes practice to take the appropriate amount of responsibility in a dynamic
situation, to respond to criticism non-defensively. Listen for their intended meaning (ask
"Do you mean...") and accept their opinion as information you'll seriously
consider. Follow up with them if you decide to apply something they've said.
Tip #3: Renegotiate as early as possible
When a promise must be renegotiated, do so early, anticipate and the focus will be on
the agreement and what can be done, not on your reliability, limitations, or whose fault
Tip #4: Renegotiate any dysfunctional agreements
If you continually rely on someone that does not produce the goods, you suffer. Do you
know anybody in your life who is, in a sense, wearing a hole in your pocket? You stretch
to give them another chance, time and time again. Some relationships, by contrast, pay
dividends, while with others, you could say that your "trust fund" is overdrawn.
Over-reliance can be balanced with a good dose of appropriate skepticism and a tighter,
renegotiated agreement. A negotiated agreement will help shift the burden of
responsibility so that there's two of you trusting.
Tip #5: Say what you mean (and mean what you say)
Being direct and tactful in equal measures helps others feel safe. If you've got some
difficult feedback to deliver, balance your message with positive reinforcement, say how
you feel about it, and encourage them to do the same. Your courageous and considerate
communication will send a signal that you can be trusted, even if your message isn't good
As others see you being open and forthcoming, they'll quickly clear up any
misunderstandings, be straight and direct, and expect the same. When trust is based on
being able to predict the other person's behavior, you'll have a reason to be curious
about how people operate so you can discover and play to their strengths.
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