Five Steps to Create Cultures of Trust

by Judith E. Glaser

We are designed for connection with others, and when trust is broken we recoil and close down. Conversational Intelligence is teaching us that because we are designed to be social, our brains are sensitive to the signals of trust and distrust. When you use the TRUST Model effectively, you are sending signals of trust to others, and they will pick up these signals as you openly engage.engagement to create trust

Step 1: Transparency. Be open and transparent about what’s on your mind. Transparency quells the reptilian or primitive brain, which reacts to fear, threat, and loss. When we create conditions favorable for trust, people begin to talk openly about their threats and fears. We start reconnecting with others. Transparency is also about sharing our intentions so people don’t read into them. So, talk about the doubts and fears that stand in the way of building trust. Communicate openly with others to quell threats. This sends messages of trust that the amygdala understands: “I trust you will not harm me.”

Step 2: Relationship. Extend the olive branch, even with people you may see as a foe. Connect and engage to build relationships. Extending trust sends messages of friendship to the brain that shift the energy toward appreciation.

We now know from researchers at the HeartMath Institute that focusing positive energy toward a person (Heart Appreciation) shifts our attention and intention to seek connectivity, reduces the fear of power-over energy, and builds power-with connectivity.

When we refocus on heart appreciation, we create greater heart coherence—when the heart waves reflect a smooth wave. This feeling is then transferred or picked up by others with whom we engage. Rebuilding relationships activates the heart brain, and we pick up positive signals of friendship in our conversations. We sense: “I trust this person to have my best interest at heart?” Partnering Conversations shift relationships from judgment to respect and create the conditions and agreements that enable people to collaborate productively.

When we feel that others respect and appreciate us, the mirror neurons located below the prefrontal cortex are activated, enabling us to identify with others and create a bridge of empathy with them. We activate our ability for bonding, collaborating, and experiencing high-point emotional moments, meaning that the levels of oxytocin are increasing as we interact. This influx of neurochemicals reinforces trust.

Step 3: Understanding. We learn what is really on people’s minds by seeking to understand their needs and emotions and seeing the world through their eyes. When we stand in their shoes and understand their perspective, we are in a better position to honor them. I believe understanding means we “stand under” the same view of the world. People naturally trust us more when they believe that we have their best interest at heart. Seek to understand their context and perspective by listening without judgment to how they hold their reality.

Step 4: Shared Success. Create a shared vision of success with others. When we have a common view of success, we start to intuitively trust that others will make decisions similar to ours, and we trust they will work out conflicts fairly.

Our neo-cortex functions to help us shape strategies for success. When we are attached to being right and advocate only our point of view, we give the impression we have an agenda. Entrenchment in our point of view leads to distrust, driving conversations that elicit protective behavior. Trying to persuade others to want our success only creates resistance.

Step 5: Testing assumptions and telling the truth. Test perceptions and assumptions about reality. Close the gaps between what you expect and what you get with others. Step into the other person’s shoes, and see the world from his or her perspectives—empathy is the highest level of trust that we experience together.

When truth is discovered together, one view of the world emerges. Engage the prefrontal cortex—the executive brain—by shaping conversations that let you see the world from another’s perspective. When you test assumptions, tell the truth and rebuild trust, you can see the bigger picture. You’re not attached to being right and finding fault.

As you see people or thing in a new way, your mind opens up to new insights and awareness—you access the truth. Truth-telling starts with being able to see the truth about your own behavior.

TRUST Rituals

By taking these steps, you activate the trust networks in your brain, located in the prefrontal cortex, and you strengthen your capacity to connect with others in more healthy and supportive ways. By listening to connect, and by learning to see the world from another’s perspective, you can attain the highest-level of relationship and partnership with others. You will connect with people differently—and your conversations will reflect this new and powerful insight.

Judith E. GlaserJudith E. Glaser is the CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc. and the Chairman of The Creating WE Institute. She is an Organizational Anthropologist and the author of the best selling book, Conversational Intelligence (Bibliomotion, 2013), as well as a consultant to Fortune 500 companies.


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