Earlier this week, I was coaching a senior executive on a very high-stakes presentation. He told me he wanted to be perceived as trustworthy. Setting trustworthiness as a goal is common among our clients, so there was nothing new about it in this situation. But as the discussion went on, he asked me what he could do to ensure that his audience saw him as worthy of their trust.
His question had me stumped for a bit. Just what exactly CAN someone do to be perceived as trustworthy? Words won’t do it. Saying “trust me” is an engraved invitation NOT to. You can’t stand a certain way or gesture or smile in a way that would build trust. Presenting solid data is certainly a good and necessary thing to do, but it alone won’t build trust.
Then it occurred to me.
“Their trust is yours to lose,” I said.
I went on to explain that this particular audience is there because they already trust him. They wouldn’t bother if that weren’t true.
So rather than thinking about ways to build trust, we should think of ways to maintain the trust we already have. We do that by being truthful, genuine, smart, and attentive to an audience’s needs and views. We do it by looking them in the eye and really seeing them. We do it by creating excellent visual aids with accurate data. We do it by answering their questions and concerns with complete transparency, even when the data isn’t in our favor. Finally, we do it by putting their needs ahead of our own.
And the nice thing is, when we do these things, the trust they already have in us grows.
What are your thoughts?