This was a hard lesson for me to learn. It took me years before I figured out that there was a link between trust and listening well.
Building trust is about making sure people can depend on you. It’s about doing what you say you’re going to do. It’s about saying please and thank you. These are all important and without them you won’t have a trusting relationship. Most importantly, if you don’t listen well you’re not going to build trust.
Trust starts with understanding others.
If you want to build trust you have to understand the motivation of others. You have to understand what’s important to them. If you want me to trust you, I need to know that you just aren’t interested in what you can get out of the relationship.
If I understand you and what your motivations are it’s easy for me to help you get what you want. I can’t learn any of these things if I’m talking. In fact, I need to go past being a good listener. I need to be good at asking questions.
Asking good questions requires that you are a good listener.
You can’t ask a good question unless you’re a good listener. Often it’s not what someone else is saying, it’s the sub-text of what they’re saying that’s important.
You’ve probably had the experience where someone has asked you a question and you didn’t feel they really wanted to hear your answer. I know that when that happens with me, I give a short answer that shows no depth of who I am.
Why would you want to risk letting people in your world if you don’t believe they really are interested in you? I’ve learned that I’m not going to open up to someone who asks questions that don’t show real interest in who I am. Do you ask questions to be polite or because you’re really interested?
You must understand others to build trust.
If you want others to trust you you’re going to have to start with learning about what motivates them. Trust is an activity that’s all about the other person. The more you can prove that you’re interested in someone else’s well being the more trust you’re going to build.
To understand someone else you have to drill down on what they’re talking about. If you stop at one question and start talking about your opinion you’re not building trust. If you ask follow up questions you’re allowing yourself to really understand the person you’re speaking with. This builds trust.
Building trust is hard work.
Listening intently to others is hard work. You have to stay present. You can’t be thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner. You can’t think about the movie you saw last night. You have to actively listen to what others are saying. You have to concentrate.
If you find your concentration has slipped, don’t let an answer you don’t understand slip by. Make sure you ask again so you can listen and stay present during the answer. You might find that after you’ve had an intense conversation where you’re truly trying to understand the person you’re with that you get a little tired. This is an expected outcome. It also means you’re probably well along the path of creating trust.
Asking questions allows you to learn what’s important for others.
When you understand what’s important for others you’re building trust. There aren’t many times when I’ve been in situations where I feel that someone else really understands and is interested in what’s important to me. When it happens, these are the people I trust. These are the people I take their recommendations and know it’s what they think is best for me.
Trust is earned; it’s not just given. One thing all the people I know who are trustworthy have in common is the ability to listen well. What about you? What can you do to improve your listening skills? If you want to build trust with others you’re going to need to practice being a great listener.