The Language of Trust: In Business and Personal Relationships, Words Are as Important as Actions

Article excerpt

EVERY CUSTOMER or client interaction can be seen as an opportunity to build or erode trust. Is this something ingrained in the culture of your employees on the front lines with your customers? And how about you--have you considered that every client interaction is an opportunity to strengthen or weaken a relationship? If you had the option in your next encounter with an associate, would you choose to weaken your relationship or strengthen it? The natural answer is to strengthen it. That makes sense; we all know that building strong relationships leads to positive results.

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Somewhere in our subconscious, we all keep score on our personal and professional relationships. We have our own criteria, tests, and thresholds that determine how much we trust each other. Trust is earned through a series of experiences during which you pay attention to what the other person is saying (or leaving out) and respond in a way that satisfies his or her needs. The crucial first impression sets the foundation, and each subsequent interaction builds upon it. Once you've built a trusted relationship, you have a solid structure with the integrity to withstand ups and downs.

While most of us would choose to strengthen a relationship and build trust rather than erode it, we often point to the behavior of the other party when the relationship equation doesn't add up. But what some people fail to consider is how their own behavior contributes to the lack of relationship-building and, ultimately, trust-building.

How do organizations and their employees become more attuned to the language of trust? According to J. Mitchell Perry, a psychotherapist and performance consultant with nearly 40 years of experience, there are three steps.

1. ASK, DON'T TELL

The more avenues we have to communicate with one another, the less we listen. In our increasingly digital world, it is easier than ever to push messages out, telling customers what to think or buy.

Instead of pushing messages out, draw customers in. Engage them in conversation, especially through social media. Ask what's on their minds, how they feel about a product or service, and what issues they may be having. Being asked questions makes customers feel heard and understood. If you seek to understand their point of view, they will be more accepting of what you have to say. …