As we proceed through the 12 Dimensions of Trust in this CONNECT2Lead blog series, fostering two-way trust has been implied. In this post, it’s coming to the forefront of the discussion. That’s because teams and organizations thrive when two-way trust is deliberately build and protected.
If you’d like to assess yourself on the 12 Dimensions of Trust, download this free tool from People First Productivity Solutions. You can also enroll for this free workshop, Trust Is a 2-Way Street, on People First Leadership Academy.
Two-way trust requires more than being trustworthy. Equally important is learning to trust others, even before they deserve your trust and even after they’ve breached your trust.
That’s not a “turn the other cheek” paradigm. It’s not about you being gullible and easily deceived. What’s required for two-way trust is openness.
What Does Openness Have to Do with Trust?
Openness is unique among the 12 Dimensions of Trust. When you’re open, it will be easier for others to trust you. When you’re open, it will also be easier for you to trust others because you’ll be setting the boundaries, communicating the expectations, and clearly conveying your needs.
Being more open so others can trust you
Some confuse being open with being self-focused. Actually, a focus on self is a mechanism for closing out others. That’s not likely to build two-way trust.
Being more open may require you to be a bit less guarded and a bit more vulnerable. But you need not go overboard. Your colleagues don’t need to know you full life story and private information. They do need to know you – what makes you tick, what you value, what you hope to accomplish, etc.
They also need to know your opinion. They need your ideas and input, even when you haven’t completely worked out all the particulars. By letting others in during your thought process, you’ll seem less distant and more engaged. You’ll be giving others an opportunity to influence and contribute as part of your process.
Oftentimes, people hold back because they aren’t sure their input will be well-received. Chances are, though, that you weren’t hired to sit on the sidelines and watch the parade go by. Instead, you were hired for your unique abilities, experience, education, and ideas or opinions. Worry less about the initial reaction to your input and more about the need every group has for a dissenting voice and fresh perspective.
Be open, too, when others ask questions. Think less about the “right” answer or trying to tell them what they want to hear. Think more about how you can offer something honest and authentically from you. Don’t misunderstand the purpose of questions – most people don’t ask them to question an individual but to seek information from an individual.
Finally, strive to keep an open mind when challenged by contrary views. Don’t shut down the conversation until you’ve worked to understand the other person’s perspective. Be open in the same measure that you’d like others to be open to your views.
Being more open so you can trust others
To make it easier to trust others, be open in the way you view others and in the way you communicate with them.
Develop an appreciation for differences. Move away from right/wrong and good/bad thinking. Instead, be intellectually curious about different ways of thinking and different ways of getting things done. Your thoughts are not necessarily superior or inferior, just different. Similarly, others contributions are not superior or inferior, just different.
Those differences, when respected and valued, are what make teams better. Decision quality improves when differences are embraced. Trust soars when people are receiving and exploring ideas rather than proceeding without being open to others’ input.
When you open yourself up in this way, you’ll get to know others better. You’ll understand their views, values, and thought processes. By demystifying what fuels them, you’ll be less likely to mistrust them.
It’s also important to openly communicate so that you can trust others. Share your expectations in clear, consistent ways. Leave no room for doubt. Check in frequently and correct misunderstandings before they wreak havoc. If you don’t communicate about your expectations, you’re setting others up to fail. And it’s patently unfair to mistrust them for failures you contributed to.
We are all more likely to trust people who trust us. Two-way trust has a multiplier effect. By trusting others, you’re increasing the likelihood of them trusting you… which means you’ll trust them more… and so on.
Who Is Responsible for Two-Way Trust?
We typically assume responsibility for our own trustworthiness. We act in ways that demonstrate our integrity, honesty, competence, consistency, loyalty and so forth.
We typically expect others to accept responsibility, in kind, for their own trustworthiness. We expect them to act in ways that show they have integrity, are honest and competent, etc. We evaluate their trustworthiness in 12 Dimensions of Trust, some at a subconscious level.
When others violate our trust, we blame them for the misdeed that caused us to doubt them.
Here’s the problem.
We see actions, interpret actions, infuse meaning into those actions based on our own interpretation of them… And we often get it all wrong.
What’s more, we often fail to consider the intentions that drove the actions we observed. We leap to conclusions and judge others harshly. They do the same when evaluating some of our actions. The net result is a whole lotta mistrust that’s misplaced.
Two-way trust assumes good intent, reins in emotional responses, checks for understanding, and engages the other party in conversation to clear the air. Openness is paramount in this process.
The bottom line is this: whoever wants two-way trust is responsible for two-way trust.
If you want to create a workplace climate where people trust each other, value trust, behave in trustworthy ways, and work to trust colleagues, you’ll establish this responsibility for everyone. It’s equally shared. Every individual is responsible for being trustworthy and for trusting others.
When there’s potentially been a breach of trust, the two parties involved need to talk to each other and figure out what went wrong. If an action was not in good faith, the actor needs to take responsibility and course correct going forward. They’ll need a second chance to successfully do that. If the action was misinterpreted, the misinterpreter needs to take responsibility for the assumptions and interpretations made. They’ll need a second chance to choose a different response next time around.
Trust, in any organization, should be linked to behaviors and not to feelings. Those feelings are what leads us astray. They’re often borne of unconscious biases or baggage from the past. Feelings usually interfere with giving others a fair chance.
When should you abandon hope and shift to not trusting someone? Only after a pattern of behavior has been observed, documented, discussed, and repeated. Until then, simple misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and/or a lack of awareness may be in play.
Behaviors for Fostering Two-Way Trust
To foster two-way trust in the workplace, use these 10 behaviors consistently. They will demonstrate your openness in a variety of ways.
- Assume good intent until you’re proven wrong. Give others the benefit of the doubt.
- If something doesn’t seem quite right, ask about it. Seek to understand.
- Give grace. People make mistakes. Help them recover by showing an alternate way.
- When you don’t trust someone, figure out why. Privately, discuss what you need. Offer a pathway back instead of shutting them out forever.
- Be open in describing your own motivations. Share your decision criteria. Be transparent.
- Seek others’ opinions and input. Be receptive to new ideas.
- Share information in a timely manner. Don’t withhold information that impacts others.
- Offer your opinion. Contribute to discussions. Participate in ways that signal your interest.
- Communicate frequently and not just about work tasks. Be knowable and interested in genuinely knowing others.
- When receiving feedback, avoid becoming defensive. Listen, process, and glean what’s constructive.
When you adopt these behaviors, you’ll be modeling them to others. You’ll begin to see others behaving like this, too. Openness fosters more openness… More openness fosters more two-way trust.