Empathy, logic, authenticity. How to build and maintain trust.  

Trust is the foundation for everything we do. But what do we do when it’s broken? In an eye-opening TED talk, Harvard Business School Professor Frances Frei gives a crash course in trust: how to build it, maintain it and rebuild it — something she worked on during a stint at Uber. “If we can learn to trust one another more, we can have unprecedented human progress,” Frei says.

To maintain or rebuild trust, we first need to understand its main components. Frei says that in order to make people trust you, you must have:

  1. A sense of authenticity 
  2. Rigour in logic
  3. Have them truly believe empathy is directed toward them

When all three of these are working, we have great trust. But if one of these is shaky or wobbles – trust is threatened. 

So how can we engender more trust tomorrow than you do today? 

The empathy wobble

The most common trust wobble is empathy. People simply don’t believe we are mostly in it for them. That we are, in short, too self-distracted.  Frei says that it’s easy when we’re really busy to crowd out the time and space that empathy requires. 

Without revealing empathy – everything is harder. 

The prescription:

Identify where, when and to whom you are likely to offer your distraction

That should trace perfectly to where, when and whom you are likely to withhold your empathy

Come up with a trigger that get your to look up and listen to those right in front of you

Then we have the chance of having a sturdy leg of empathy

A note: 

Put away your phone. It’s the largest distraction magnet ever made, and it’s very difficult to create empathy and trust in its presence.

Logic wobble

Logic wobbles come in two forms, and trust fails for one of two reasons:

  • The quality of your logic is being questioned
  • You’re unable to communicate your logic

Usually it’s our ability to communicate the logic that’s the issue. 

There are two ways to communicate in the world, one of which is when the communicator takes us on a journey – a fantastical journey with twists, turns, mystery and drama until you get to the point.

Some of the best communicators communicate like this. BUT, if you have a logic wobble this way of communicating can be dangerous. So, Frei recommends starting with your point in a crisp half sentence. Then giving your supporting evidence. This instantly gives people access to your point but if you’re cut off before you’re done (ladies!) then you’ll still have got your point across before someone barges in. 

Authenticity wobble

As a species we can sniff out in a moment if someone is being their authentic true self. If you don’t want an authenticity wobble then the only really solution is to be you. I know, easy to say. The prescription to be youcan be challenging. Frei admits to being tempted at every step of her career to mute who she is. Pay attention to who your authentic self is. If we hold back who we are then we are less likely to be trusted and, in the end, valued or promoted. 

It is the leader’s obligation to create a space whereby feels not only safe but also welcome to be authentic. 

I think trust might just be one of the greatest attributes anyone can have in business, building it and maintaining it with my etc clients is what makes working together so successful.



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