This is not a gimmick. You can actually build meaningful trust with someone in only 30 minutes. I purposefully practice these two simple methods in conversations almost every day, and I promise you that it works.
Of course, this level of trust is not strong enough to drive a truck over right away. But it is the first plank on a bridge of trust that should hold your weight as you start across.
This article is the second in a 4-part series on building trust fast and slow. Read the first article here.
When do you need to build trust fast?
The most common scenario where you need to build trust quickly is when meeting new people for the first time.
It could be a new team member or boss at work. Or it might be a new prospect or your first meeting with a client. Whatever the case, you’ve got a very short time to make a first impression and…
you want their first impression to be that you are worthy of their trust.
Another common situation where you need to build trust fast is when conflict has boiled over. Maybe you are the mediator or need to defuse the conflict. Or maybe you are party to the conflict but want to bring the temperature back down.
In conflict scenarios, the people may not be new, but trying this approach can build enough trust to re-open rational dialog.
#1: Share something that makes you vulnerable.
The first way to build trust fast is to share something that makes you vulnerable and invites the other person identify with you. What should you share?
- A mistake or failure. Listen for cues and share something relevant. Depending on the context, acknowledge business mistakes, relationship faux pas, or personal failures that allow others to see and identify with your humanity.
- A flaw or weakness. “I’m good at seeing the big picture, but I’m not so good at recognizing how all the pieces fit in. That’s one reason I really value and need the other people on this team.”
- An apology. “I think I made our situation worse by reacting so strongly and making assumptions about you. I’m sorry. Can we back up and re-start this conversation?”
Here is a non-work example, just to show how quickly this approach can work.
I was walking our dogs with my teenage son in a park near our house the other day and saw a frustrated mom pulling a screaming toddler in a wagon. I wanted to build enough trust to be able to say an encouraging word to her, so I pointed at my son and said, “This one was just like that when he was little.” Her face instantly changed from guarded to open, so I continued, “You’re doing a great job, mom!” She brightened a little, and we walked on past.
One sentence was enough to acknowledge that I had faced the same struggle and was not judging her. It did not bond us deeply, but it opened the door for her to receive encouragement from a total stranger.
#2: Remember what they say and repeat it back.
The second way to build trust fast is to remember what the other person says and then repeat it back to them. This level of attentive listening is so rare that I often see people physically react with surprise.
Remembering what people say requires paying careful attention. This approach is often called active listening or reflective listening. Instead of thinking about what you are going to say next, use your extra brain capacity to store as much of their actual words as you can for recall.
When possible, actually take written notes. I always do this in phone conversations and frequently in face-to-face conversations. You can refer to your notes and repeat back some of the same words and phrases they used with powerful effects.
When it’s your turn to talk, start with, “What I heard you saying was…” Say it back to them in summarized form but complete. Then ask, “What did I miss?”
By listening and repeating back, you are showing that you value what the other person has to say. In fact, you value their words enough to delay making your own point until you have understood them.
Why does this work?
Both of these methods can be used together in the same conversation. The first method drops their guard (because you dropped yours first) and invites them to identify with you in some small way. The second method shows that they are important to you and that you want to understand them.
We tend to trust people with whom we have something in common. And we tend to trust people who make an effort to understand us.
If you want to go deeper, read up on psychological mirroring. When you drop your guard, others will tend to mirror you and lower their defenses. When you work to listen and understand, others will begin to slow down and listen back. Mirroring will amplify the effect of the two trust-building behaviors I’ve suggested.
As I said at the beginning, these practices will not instantly forge the deepest or strongest trust. But they will create the first trust connections that you need for taking the relationship or conversation further.