Building Trust:  The Linchpin of Influence

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A few years ago, I lost the trust of my students.  IMG_6954

I had made a few bad decisions, and about two-thirds through the program the situation reached a crisis point.  I had to make great efforts (and to humble myself) in order to sufficiently regain their trust so that I could coach them through their final projects.

When I lost their trust, their success was jeopardized.

Trust is the linchpin of relationships and the one element that makes lasting connected influence possible.  Professor Stuart Diamond, in his book Getting More, says, “Trust is something that develops slowly, over time.  It is an emotional commitment to one another based on mutual respect, ethics, and good feeling.”  Trust is a characteristic of relationships that are in it for the long haul, whether they are interpersonal, professional, or communal relationships.

Starting from Scratch

How can you build trust to begin with? First, understand that building trust will not happen quickly.  While some people are naturally trusting, most people living in the modern world are a bit skeptical of anyone they’ve not known very long.

IMG_6956Next, I think the focus should be to establish a personal connection to the person or group you are wanting to build trust with.  In so doing, you have the opportunity to build a track record of keeping the other person’s interests in mind when interacting.

In describing the Law of Connection from The 21 Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell says that “the heart comes before the head.” You must first show that you are truly interested in the person and what is important to that person.  This can best be accomplished through connected listening.

Establishing a connection will get you an opportunity; character will take you the rest of the way.

In addition to building connections with people, you must also demonstrate a strong moral character in order to gain and maintain trust with people.  John Maxwell sees character as the foundation for trust; he says that “character makes trust possible” by demonstrating consistency of results, releasing the potential of others, and earning the respect of others.

The importance of character is so great that I will have to address it more fully in a later post.

Repairing the Breach

How can you recover once trust has been lost?  This is much more difficult, but it is possible.  The first step is to admit your mistakes.  Everyone knows you made a mistake, so you lose nothing from owning it, and you gain credibility when you do.  It does require a bit of humility, but if you can get past your pride, you may find yourself with a second chance.

John Maxwell compares trust to change in your pocket – good decisions increase the change in your pocket, while bad decisions decrease the change in your pocket.  As long as you have some change (i.e. trust) remaining, you can likely recover.  The consistency, potential, and respect that are reflected in your character must shine through if you are to regain lost trust.

 

I learned a hard lesson a few years ago when I lost and later regained the trust of my students.  As a result, in the past few years I have been more intentional about connecting with my students and guarding the trust I have with them in order to more effectively guide them into becoming better communicators themselves.  My efforts have been rewarded by seeing them exceed my expectations and achieve both personal and professional success.

 

Links and Resources:

An article from Success Magazine on building trust

Speaking the Truth in Love

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It is always my goal to help my friends become stronger, healthier, and happier in some way.  However, there have been times when my advice has not only fallen on deaf ears but also may have damaged the friendship.

St. Louis Botanical Garden

St. Louis Botanical Garden

One such case happened when I was still living overseas.  I became very close friends with a Korean American co-worker, and for a season we were inseparable, frequently eating dinner together and spending much of our free time together.  Things started changing when I was transferred to a different training facility, but I think what may have increased our separation was my unsolicited “helpful” advice on an issue she was dealing with.  I suspect my suggestions were delivered too strongly and she couldn’t “hear” me.

The Apostle Paul instructs Christians to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:13), and over the past several years, I have been working on doing this more effectively, though I still fall short so often. This is usually an issue when there is conflict or disagreement, not when life is running smoothly. There has been much that has been written and said about how to approach a conflict. Therefore, it is not my intention to address the when’s and why’s here (see resources for a link to a message on resolving conflict that addresses these two issues), but more of the how’s – what does it actually mean to speak “in love”?

In his TED Talk “How to speak so that people want to listen,” Julian Treasure lists what he calls the seven deadly sins of speaking.  Each of these are ways of NOT “speaking in love,” and they are:

  1. gossip – talking about others
  2. judging – evaluating others, especially negatively
  3. negativity – focusing on the pessimistic perspective
  4. complaining – focusing on problems
  5. excuses – refusing to accept responsibility
  6. exaggeration – overstating reality
  7. dogmatism – stating opinion as if it were fact

We have all been guilty of some, if not all, of these “sins,” whether they have been verbalized or not.  However, what I notice about this list is that each of these “sins” starts with an emphasis on your own perspective, without consideration of the listener’s perspective.  Both John Ullmen and Stuart Diamond talk about the importance of starting from the other person’s perspective, especially when negotiating or dealing with disagreement.  I think this is a key to being able to “speak in love.”

When I think about a model of “speaking in love,” I see Jesus Christ as the best example.  In every interaction He had with individuals, we see Him speaking into the other person’s perspective.  He had the power and authority to speak the words of heaven, and yet He met each person right where they were and spoke the words they needed to hear.  I think the Book of John has some great conversations, including the discussion with Nicodemus about being born again (chapter 3) and His meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well and their conversation about living water (chapter 4), among others.  In each of the conversations, Jesus takes the approach that is most effective for the particular person He is speaking with.

Julian Treasure gives his solution to the seven deadly sins of speaking through the acronym “HAIL” (in the sense of “all hail the conquering hero”), including “speaking in love”:

  • Honesty – speaking the truth
  • Authenticity – being yourself
  • Integrity – doing what you say
  • Love – wishing people well

I would venture that these are a great place to start, but Mr. Treasure has left out one very important element that is available to all Christians – the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  I think that is what made Jesus such a powerful communicator; He depended upon God’s guidance and only spoke what He heard the Father speak (John 12:49).  We, too, have that guidance available to us.  Perhaps it is time we were more mindful of checking with God for His perspective and His words before engaging in conversations, especially with those closest to us and with those who have very different perspectives.

 

Links and Resources:

Rick Warren’ message on Resolving Conflict, part of the “You Make Me Crazy” message series

Julian Treasure’s TED Talk “How to speak so that people want to listen”

Website for Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving In

Stuart Diamond speaking at Google about the concepts in his book Getting More.

100 Bible verses on speaking the truth in love

The Labels We Adopt

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While I was raised in a very conservative home, I inadvertently chose a career dominated by more liberal-minded people. It is probably not surprising that my friendships with colleagues with very different perspectives would influence my own views.

Jeju Island, South Korea

Jeju Island, South Korea

This was brought home to me in an unusual conversation I had with my parents about socks. You see, it has become important to me to use sustainable materials whenever possible, and I have become enamored of bamboo yarns and fabrics. When I told my parents about my bamboo socks, they teased me by saying I had “gone green,” with the implication that I was becoming liberal in my thinking.  What they didn’t realize was that bamboo socks were just the tip of the iceberg regarding my views on environmental issues, and their reaction showed me the extent to which, at least in that one area, my perspective of the world and the role of humans in it had shifted from that of my parents.

This is a very simple example that points to a larger issue: in my opinion, people today are very quick to apply or adopt labels, especially within families or among friends and colleagues, where they can be used to include or exclude members. However, I often find these labels to be inadequate as a method of describing or understanding a person. Additionally, these terms have very broad applications; depending on which field is under discussion, my own views might swing liberal or conservative.

However, when a person applies these labels to him- or herself, it can reveal how they see themselves and what values they hold. This allows others to catch a glimpse of what Stuart Diamond calls “the pictures in their mind,” or in other words, their perspective, goals, hopes, and fears. “One of the most common labels used deals with our political alliances. Research shows that there are significant differences between the values of liberals and conservatives. One of the tools that explains these differences, and increases understanding of each other’s meanings behind the labels they choose, is the research into morality and politics done by Dr. Jonathan Haidt.

In his 2008 TED Talk, Dr. Haidt describes five dimensions of morality, what he believes to be the basis of all human moral psychology. While I might not define “morality” in the same way he does, his talk provides a vocabulary for talking about social and political differences of opinion by focusing on five areas:

  1. Care/harm – to provide care and protect the weak from harm.
  2. Fairness/cheating – to provide justice and treat others in proportion to their actions.
  3. Loyalty/betrayal – to place priority on your family, community, or nation.
  4. Authority/subversion – to respect traditions and institutions of authority.
  5. Sanctity/degradation – to avoid disgusting items or acts.
Image from TED.com

Image from TED.com

Survey research indicates that liberals tend to emphasize the first two dimensions, care and fairness, above all, while conservatives tend to give equal importance to all five dimensions.  Dr. Haidt finishes his TED Talk as I would, with a call for liberals and conservatives to practice conscious listening and to work together.

This call for working together is one that needs to be not only repeated but also implemented. Whenever I chance to catch a bit of political talk shows from a conservative or a liberal perspective, I am not struck by how “correct” the speakers seem but by how engulfed in their own perspective they are. I believe the deadlock of Congress is due to this mindset. If we are going to truly achieve a meeting of the minds that can lead to solutions to the many problems facing our country, we need to start by recognizing that those who think differently from us have a system of logic to support their position, a system that makes sense. According to Pastor Bill Shuler, God often uses people who are different from us, first to impact us and help us grow, and second to impact others that we cannot reach ourselves. We need each other, no matter how different. If we cannot first recognize this, we will have no chance of finding joint solutions.

We are charged by the Bible to pursue justice, to act as stewards of the resources we’ve been given, and to strive for Christian unity.  These are issues that will need all perspectives – the liberal, the conservative, the libertarian, the moderate – to find creative solutions.  It is time to start practicing conscious listening, to work on understanding the points of view of all sides, not to insulate ourselves from disagreement, in order to generate creative solutions to the problems that plague our nation.  Only by understanding what each other values, and moving beyond labels, will we be able to fulfill these Biblical mandates.

 

*Note: I realize that bamboo is not the best sustainable material, requiring large amounts of processing in order to make it into yarn or fabric. I still find it a very interesting fabric.

 

Links and Resources

Stuart Diamond speaking at Google about the concepts in his book Getting More.

Jonathan Haidt: The moral roots of liberals and conservatives

Moral Foundations Questionnaire: If you are curious to find your position on these five dimensions of morality and how you compare to other readers of this blog (including myself), you can take a quiz at YourMorals.org.

Scholarly paper on Moral Foundations Theory

66 Bible verses about justice

73 Bible verses about stewardship

74 Bible verses about unity

 

 

 

 

Persuasion through Selflessness

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As an instructor who works with adults, I am often in the position of trying to convince a student to buy in to the goals of the course or of a particular assignment.  A few years ago, I experienced a particularly stubborn student who was determined to do assignments his own way and not in a way that I could give him credit for.  Basically, he wanted me to edit articles he intended to have published instead of doing the coursework.  IMG_6470This put him in danger of failing not only my course but the entire 8-month program he was enrolled in.  In order to convince him to complete assignments so that he could pass the course and the program, I asked him to meet with me in person, to which he agreed.  At first, I tried to reason with him, describing the consequences of non-compliance and the benefits of simply following instructions, all to no avail.  It seemed as if he were determined to fail the program, and I was getting more and more frustrated by his refusal to accept my limitations as his instructor.  Finally, I made an offer I had held in reserve: in return for his completing the assignments, I would also review his articles intended for publication.  Immediately his stubbornness dissipated.

I often tell my students that if you have more than one person in the room, you will have disagreement, and this case was no exception.  How can you persuade someone who seems determined, even to his own detriment, to hold to his own position?   I have found that negotiation studies provide many tools for dealing with such situations, as well as others less severe.  One tool that I think is particularly relevant to interpersonal relationships is the Five Core Concerns of negotiation.  As described by Dan Shapiro, the associate director of the Harvard Negotiation Project, the Five Core Concerns zero in on the five emotional needs of any person you come in contact with:

1.  Appreciation – each person wants their efforts and experience to be recognized and appreciated.

2.  Autonomy – God made us with free will, and people tend to resent anyone who uses force, coercion, or manipulation to make them choose a course of action that they don’t want to choose.

3.  Affiliation – we are social creatures and all have a need to belong, to be a member of a group.

4.  Status – we all want to be treated with respect, no matter our position in the hierarchy

5.  Role – humanity is purpose-driven; we all want to know that our efforts are working towards a greater goal; we all want to have a part to play in whatever project is being pursued

In the encounter with my student recounted at the beginning of this post, I had to tap into each of these points.  I had to show understanding of and appreciation for his desires and goals.  I had to respect his autonomy; I couldn’t force him to complete his assignments. I had to demonstrate that we were on the same team.  I had to be respectful of his identity as an experienced and knowledgeable professional.  I had to define, and expand, our roles as teacher and student.

By tapping into these Five Cs, I was able to provide the student with what Stuart Diamond in his book Getting More calls an “emotional payoff,” which is recognizing the emotional needs of the person you are trying to persuade and meeting them in some way, by offering to go above and beyond my responsibilities as an instructor in order to help him achieve his goals.  Another element that came into play was in line with Simon Sinek’s point in his TED Talk “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe”; the solution ultimately required me to at least offer to sacrifice my own time to further his goals so that he would be able to accept my goals for him.

In the end, my student said he did not want to create more work for me, so he wouldn’t ask me to review both assignments and articles.  Instead, he agreed to simply complete his assignments, and he successfully completed the course and program.  If I had insisted on my position as his instructor, we would have had a very different outcome.

 

Links and Resources

Dan Shapiro: 5 core concerns

Stuart Diamond speaking at Google about the concepts in his book Getting More.

Simon Sinek: Why good leaders make you feel safe

100 Bible verses about selflessness

 

The Power of Gentleness

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By Tasha M. Troy

In 2004, I began a new phase of my teaching career by joining the teaching staff at a multinational corporation based in South Korea.  Our students were mid-level managers and mid-career professionals, and I quickly learned a new set of classroom management strategies that incorporated respect for their positions and experience while still giving constructive feedback.  Busan, South KoreaIn 2010, the necessity for giving gentle and diplomatic instruction was intensified as I joined a program in the US teaching professional communication skills to naturalized US citizens.  Not only were these experienced professionals, but they had also been in the United States for several years and had developed sophisticated compensation strategies that led many of them to overestimate their English proficiency.  Several of these accomplished adults experienced an identity crisis when faced with the reality of their language weaknesses, and only a gentle approach could reach them.

One key to treating people with gentleness is having personal humility and vulnerability. Brené Brown, in her TED Talk ”The power of vulnerability,” describes how the people who are best able to connect with others have embraced vulnerability, have owned their imperfections, and have developed a humility that enables them to approach others with kindness and gentleness.  I would venture that true vulnerability is only possible through a deep trust in the love and acceptance we receive from God.  Once we have turned to God as our source of love, it becomes so much easier to treat others gently.

I believe another key to treating people gently is to understand the other’s perspective. In his book Getting More: How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life, Professor Stuart Diamond describes how important it is to connect with people you are attempting to work with, not on the basis of cold reason but through truly understanding what is important to them.  He explains that when attempting to persuade someone, “you have to understand the pictures in their heads: their perceptions and feelings, how they view you and the rest of the world.” He encourages his students (and readers) to ask a lot of questions when they are dealing with people they would like to persuade.  He goes on to list fourteen elements of effective communication, most of which relate to showing the other side that you value and respect them.

Of course, not all communication is created equal.  In my classes, we spend some time talking about the value of “diplomatic language” – speaking in such a way as to soften statements and to express value for the other person through polite language.  The more tense the situation, the more “diplomatic” you need to be.  This is not so much about how you feel; you may be very upset, but raising your voice and using overly direct language will not enable you to connect with the other person.  However, “a gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1).

Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California defines gentleness as “strength under control” and describes eight benefits to developing gentleness in your life:

  1. Gentleness defuses conflict, which I have mentioned above.
  2. Gentleness disarms critics; someone looking for a strong reaction will be surprised by a gentle response.
  3. Gentleness is persuasive, which I have mentioned above.
  4. Gentleness is attractive; gentle people are pleasant to be around, and others enjoy spending time with them.
  5. Gentleness communicates love; gentleness flows from humility and putting others first.
  6. Gentleness earns respect, which again comes from personal humility.
  7. Gentleness witnesses to unbelievers; consistently living an other-centered lifestyle is counter-cultural and only truly possible with God’s help.
  8. Gentleness makes us like Jesus (Matthew 11:29).

If we want to connect with people with different perspectives, we must approach them with gentleness.  Otherwise, we risk coming across as harsh and judgmental.  I highly encourage you to begin practicing gentleness in all your communications.

Take It Deeper

If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions on Fridays.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

Links and Resources:

Basic components of effective communication:

  1. always communicate
  2. listen and ask questions
  3. value, don’t blame them
  4. summarize often
  5. do role reversal
  6. be dispassionate
  7. articulate goals
  8. be firm without damaging the relationship
  9. look for small signals
  10. discuss perceptual differences
  11. find out how they make commitments
  12. consult before deciding
  13. focus on what you can control
  14. avoid debating who is right

(Getting More Chapter 3).

Stuart Diamond speaking at Google about the concepts in his book Getting More.

5 Tips for Polite and Diplomatic Language

Saddleback Church:  The Strength of Gentleness

97 Bible verses about gentleness