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Building Trust At Workplace: 5 Proven Elements For Effective Communication

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Effective communication is key to successful relationships, both personal and professional. This is particularly important when it comes to building trust in the workplace.

Building Trust At Workplace: 5 Proven Elements For Effective Communication

To communicate effectively, we must know the context, the people we communicate with, and our objectives.

Research has shown trust is crucial to creating productive and positive work environments.

A 2016 Fortune research concerning the “100 Best Companies to Work For” highlighted that in these companies trust is the most significant feature since: “trust between managers and employees is the primary characteristic which defines better workplaces” . These companies outperform “the average annualized returns of the S&P 500 by a factor of three”.1

Other benefits of trust consist is an improvement in commitment and loyalty among people. It also refines on the ability to delegate and be accountable, in addition, to raise productivity. 2

To build trust, we must first connect with the other person. This begins with creating a rapport, which occurs when both parties demonstrate their attention and intention to get to know each other.

Without rapport, communication cannot take place, and the process of building trust in the workplace cannot begin.

How To Build Rapport At Workplace While Communicating

The first step towards building rapport is identifying and utilizing certain characteristics of the people we communicate with. These include similarities, friendliness, and reciprocity:

Similarity:

Similarity is important because it allows for a more natural and spontaneous connection to form.

How To Build Trust In Workplace

When we find common ground with others, whether in appearance, communication style, or background, it becomes easier to relate to them. Common values, group membership, personality traits, and attitudes contribute to similarity.

Friendliness:

Friendliness is also key to building rapport. When someone is friendly, they appear open and available for mutual knowledge.

This can be demonstrated through indicators such as steady eye contact, a friendly expression or smile, open body language, a stable and relaxed tone of voice, and natural breathing that denotes ease.

Reciprocity:

Reciprocity is another important aspect of building rapport.

We tend to reflect the body positions, breathing rhythms, vocal volume, and level of formality of language of those we wish to connect with.

By demonstrating attention and intention and showing an “I see you” or “I hear you” attitude, we create a form of validation that helps to establish a rapport.

Importance of Building Trust At Workplace

By utilizing these characteristics and paying attention to the signals of the people we are communicating with, we can create a foundation of trust that allows for effective communication and productive relationships in the workplace.

After creating a rapport, communication can begin, which is crucial in building trust.

The word “communication” is derived from the Latin term “communicare,” which means to share or put in common. It is a shared action, and trust is expressed at its highest level through sharing.

Communication allows people to disclose explicit and implicit information such as behavior, mood, and intentions.

In the process of creating trust, we have another resource to use: time. Time will help us to eliminate the possible biases of which people are not aware toward someone. In fact, it is important not to immediately draw judgments.

In this stage of such subtle perceptions it is recommended to be cautious and open: in this way, it will be possible to acquire – or better, to learn – more information corresponding to the true nature of the observed person. Two elements, what we observe and when, allow us to perceive the person’s behavior patterns and subsequently their predictability, which in a positive sense turns into reliability. 3

Silence is also a way of communicating.

As we communicate with someone over time, we learn more about their characteristics, behavior patterns, and predictability. It is important to avoid drawing immediate judgments about someone and to be open and cautious in the early stages of getting to know them.

This way, we can acquire more information about the person’s true nature, allowing us to perceive their behavior patterns and predictability.

This ultimately builds reliability and is essential in building trust in the workplace.

Five Phases To Building Trust In the Workplace

The process of building trust in the workplace can be divided into five phases, each of which involves specific characteristics that are communicated through changes in focus and language.

These phases, known as “ways of being,” reflect the person’s level of self-awareness, attention toward others, and overall aptitude for building trust in the workplace.

Building Trust At Workplace

The five phases are congruence, consistency, knowledge, acceptance, and sharing. It’s important to note that these concepts are deeply interconnected and support each other.

In every interaction, we can only see in others what we see in ourselves.

Therefore, to be able to give and receive trust, we must first trust ourselves. Each element of the trust-building process serves as a “place for reflection” on an individual level, allowing us to understand our character and intentions better.

1. Congruence

The first phase in building trust is Congruence.

It is the instinctive evaluation of a person’s friendliness and credibility based on congruence and consistency. People seek answers to questions like who the person is, what they value, and what characteristics they demonstrate.

Congruence means being aware of oneself, listening to oneself, accepting oneself, and respecting one’s principles.

At the beginning of a relationship, attention should be put on congruence in appearance, expressions, communication style, and words used.

The message must be congruent in all its forms of expression to be perceived clearly and produce the desired impact.

Building Trust At Workplace

It is interesting to note that in this first analysis the unconscious, which has always been the guardian of our personal safety, takes over. Evaluating only few information about someone, conscious and unconscious sensations come into play. We can feel that “gut feeling” given by the close link with the limbic brain, which is responsible for all the sensations and decisions made, such as trust and loyalty. 4

Unconscious sensations come into play during this analysis, given the close link with the limbic brain, which is responsible for trust and loyalty.

The limbic brain can sense if it is appropriate to approach a person or to keep a distance.

For instance, visual tricks like being clean and polished indicate that we are attentive toward ourselves, respectful toward others, and can take care of details.

Wearing shades of blue, the color of trust, can unconsciously activate the perception of serenity. Confirmation is needed that the person is reliable and does what they say and says what they do.

2. Consistency

Consistency is the second step in building trust, which involves coherence and credibility in one’s actions.

Building Trust At Workplace

A person who is consistent with their own thoughts and principles, both in the present moment and over time, is seen as trustworthy.

Inconsistency, on the other hand, may indicate a lack of sincerity and create feelings of uncertainty and alertness that make building trust difficult.

Consistency is also an indicator of integrity, which means behaving in alignment with one’s values and principles.

This generates a positive impact on the perception of credibility and, thus, creates a reputation. If the person is also competent, expectations for future interactions can be positive.

It plays an important role in image management, which is the way others perceive us through our appearance, communication, and behavior.

Consistency creates predictability, which leads to reliability, and when the result is as expected, trust is strengthened. However, if the result is not as expected, taking responsibility for the mistake and showing good intentions can remedy the situation.

In this process it is important to check if someone shows self confidence, a basic element for communicating that she has a good perception of her efficiency and self-regulation. Self-confidence derives precisely from the “belief or certainty in oneself”, because the self-confident person can say “I count on myself, I do what I say” 5

3. Knowledge

“Trust is based on the transaction of facts and feelings” 6

Knowledge is essential to create the feeling of trust through the exchange of information, sensations and emotions.

Building Trust At Workplace Effective Communication

Through the exchange of information, sensations, and emotions, we can create a sense of trust in our relationships. Knowledge helps us predict how a relationship will develop and confirms our instincts about the other person.

To build trust, we need constant, open, and sincere communication, preferably face-to-face.

Honesty and transparency are essential qualities that contribute to sincere communication, which in turn leads to trust.

When someone is honest, self-aware, and present, they are more stable in their behavior, making it easier for others to get to know them. Communication channels such as words, visuals, and behavior can reveal these traits.

In addition to intention and attention, skills are necessary to get to know a person.

The foremost among them is the ability to listen empathetically, without judgment. The second is the ability to ask good questions that are open-ended and not leading.

This helps us gather facts and information about the other person.

Other skills that help build knowledge include feeling empathy and compassion. Empathy is necessary in certain contexts to understand the other person’s feelings, while compassion helps us feel with the other person, creating a deeper emotional connection.

Listening brings our focus to the person being listened to. For openness to occur on the part of those who offer information (this openess strategy is also known as Self-Discolosure ), a very interesting assumption is needed, which in turn is the subject of research: we have the intention to trust before trusting. 7

Building Trust At Workplace Effective Communication

In other words, there is a desire that the recipient of the information will make good use of it. This benevolence and generosity in expectations are part of the process. From this point of view, trust is described as “deriving from expectations of honest and collaborative behavior”. 8

As the saying goes, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” 9 and this is fundamental since emotional contact is created when we feel “seen” through listening and understanding.

And when we feel seen, we have greater openness, interest, and attitude to listen to the person who has listened to us. Sometimes we even feel gratitude.

This goes on to become an incredible achievement towards building trust in the workplace.

How to communicate to create knowledge?

Good communication skills will help in an open interaction. 10

To be known, we can talk about facts, feelings, sensations, and our vision. We want to show our authenticity, intended as the awareness of saying and doing what is suitable for us, and that reflects ourselves.

We will tell personal stories, and what we believe in and use neutral language that is non-judgmental.

Since we want to be known, we will want to know others. With this aim, it is important not to interrupt what others say and to learn to paraphrase their content, reflecting questions and concerns back to the speaker to demonstrate we want to understand correctly what is being said.

4. Acceptance

Accepting others is an important way to show respect and appreciation.

But we can only truly accept others if we have already accepted ourselves. When we are in conflict with ourselves or feel insecure, we may find it difficult to accept others.

Building Trust At Workplace Effective Communication

Being comfortable with other people’s differences can be enriching and help us learn new things.

This means being open to different ways of thinking and decision-making, which can involve emotional, rational, and instinctive aspects. Everyone thinks differently, and that’s okay.

To be open-minded and not judge others, we need to have mental flexibility and avoid rushing to conclusions.

We should take the time to get to know someone before making judgments. Building trust requires finding common ground and shared experiences, beliefs, or cultures.

The more we have in common, the easier it is to connect.

To broaden and strenghten the points of contact, a natural and impactful strategy is to accept and communicate our vulnerability. This openness allows us to have the possibility of being known and appreciated by others, and thus accepted, in a more in depth and sincere way.

In fact, we offer others the opportunity to find in us something familiar and intimate, such as fears and insecurities, traits that everyone of us has. This makes us a more accessible person, because in this way we reduce the distance with our interlocutors. Being vulnerable also offers the benefit that others can do the same with us.

Trust is built over time and is a projection of the future. It is defined as “confident reliance on someone when you are in a position of vulnerability”. 11

Trust is created, paradoxically, by giving trust and choosing to give the opportunity to prove it is deserved.

To communicate acceptance, we can display confident and comfortable behavior and, with open and positive language, include everyone, with questions, when talking about the opportunities and the possibilities that lie ahead.

Moreover, we can be at ease in asking for support in making decisions.

5. Sharing

Creating trust between people with the same background and personal characteristics is easier and faster.

However, trust can still be built between people who are completely different. This requires finding shared values and a common intention and being able to communicate openly throughout the process.

Sharing strengthens trust and predisposes to cooperative behaviors, 12 which in turn will increase the opportunities for knowledge and the quality of communication.

Acknowledging and validating others’ responses is the most important approach to foster trust.

The most important approach that fosters trust is that of acknowledging and validating the responses of others. This builds what is called “psychological safety”, which means to be enabled to share our own opinions and feelings, knowing these will be accepted.

No one is threatened in this case.

Being able to share ideas, emotions and opinions creates the space to be creative and to consider challenges or criticisms as an aid in an improvement process.

Everything we do is seen as an experiment shared with others, for which everyone collaborates openly to achieve a common goal, telling openly what she thinks or observes during the process.

In this way, people can possibly ask for help without the fear that an uncertainty or an error could make them appear inadequate.

People also achieve the greatest engagement, the greatest cooperation, and optimal performance to improve productivity. Listening, recognition and feedback also take place in less time, increasing the synergy between people. 13

In a culture where this happens, trust is maintained by open, transparent, and constant communication.

And that is exactly what happens when we find ourselves with someone who has earned our trust: we feel listened to, understood, accepted, and not judged, and we know that we have the space to experiment with new directions and new awareness.

Sharing is the most significant step in the process of creating and communicating trust since it represents the separation from the assumption that someone is trustable and the effective proof that trust is worthy of being given.

In this phase, trust enables to deepen knowledge, both personal and shared. To communicate in this phase, the language sees the use of the “we” more often than the use of the “I.” 14

The focus also is on the good things anyone has made or on the specific actions that are leading to results, gained by working together.

Among other techniques, specific descriptions are used with a little use of adjectives. The main purpose is to put ourselves at the same level of the other people everytime we have the possibility to do so.

Conclusion

Communication is a shared action that creates conditions for building trust in the workplace to collaborate and commit to the best results.

You can achieve better results in teamwork, for example, through communicating with the proper language and enhancing the opportunities to learn about new and different perspectives.

Being congruent and consistent, making ourselves known and knowing others, accepting and being accepted, and sharing values with others are the steps to creating the best perception of us.

This will support us in developing solid relationships.

Communication is the tool to implement these five elements. Through it, we can create in others the perception that we can be people worthy of trust and, therefore, suitable to be chosen for a productive relationship.

References

1. Covey, Stephen MR, and Douglas Conant. “The connection between employee trust and financial performance.” Harvard Business Review 7 (2016): 1-7.
2. Erdem, Ferda, and Janset Ozen. “Cognitive and affective dimensions of trust in developing team performance.” Team Performance Management: An International Journal (2003).
3. Communication is closely linked to the individual and to the idea he has of himself and of others, since these perceptions will influence his thoughts, words, body language, even his appearance, and consequently the goals and the type of relationships which tends to build with other people, as well as the quality of energy transmitted and perceived.
4. Sinek, Simon. Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. Penguin, 2009.
5. Bryant, Andrew, and Ana Lucia Kazan. Self-leadership: how to become a more successful, efficient, and effective leader from the inside out. McGraw Hill Professional, 2012.
6. Ståhle, P., and K. Laento. “Strategic partnership: key to continuous renewal.” WSOY, Economy, Helsinki (2000): 165.
7. Luft, Joseph, and Harry Ingham. “The johari window.” Human relations training news 5.1 (1961): 6-7. In fact, Self-Disclosure, if used properly, can help to develop mutual openness.
8. Fukuyama, Francis. Trust: The social virtues and the creation of prosperity. Simon and Schuster, 1996.
9. Covey, Stephen R. The seven habits of highly effective people. Provo, UT: Covey Leadership Center, 1991.
10. Hakanen, Mila, and Aki Soudunsaari. “Building trust in high-performing teams.” Technology Innovation Management Review 2.6 (2012).
11. Hurley, Robert F. “The decision to trust.” Harvard business review 84.9 (2006): 55-62.
12. Adler, Paul S. “Market, hierarchy, and trust: The knowledge economy and the future of capitalism.” Organization science 12.2 (2001): 215-234.
13. Edmondson, Amy C. Managing the risk of learning: Psychological safety in work teams. Cambridge, MA: Division of Research, Harvard Business School, 2002.
14. In the dynamics of sharing, being aware of our own Ego helps in creating healthy and balanced relationship with others. This is relevant because in collaborating with different personalities, the ability to be flexible is important, as well as to remain curious about others and at ease with them.
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