Going from Distrust to Trust: Conversational Intelligence Changes the Climate

Daily headlines suggest we are becoming mired in distrust, at high cost to our organizations.  As our trust bank accounts are depleted, we run out of currency to invest in the future. Trust is not a currency we can easily print to offset the deficit.

Sadly, it seems that distrust is settling over our cities. Bill O’Reilly opines: “There has been a drastic climate change in America, but it has nothing to do with the temperature.  There is a climate of distrust in our leaders.”

Going from Distrust to Trust: Conversational Intelligence Changes the ClimateLast year’s headlines were filled with tales of dysfunction, discord and distrust, providing multiple confirmations that our organizations aren’t working well, notes Adam Geller, a New York-based national writer. More than 85% of Americans surveyed by the Harris Poll said the people running the country are indifferent, up 50% from 2010. And an AP-GfK Poll found that two-thirds of Americans expressed mistrust of one another, continuing a 4-decade slide.

The information society buffets us with examples of institutional dysfunction,  said Sheila Suess Kennedy, author of Distrust, American Style.  Pope Francis acknowledged misdeeds in the Catholic Church and began to reform the scandalized Vatican bank and the church’s tangled bureaucracy. Capitalism itself is broken, he said, warning against a culture that fosters “the globalization of indifference”.

Sadly, many individuals, teams, and organizations operate in a perpetual state of distrust and fear. Consider this: a door guards the entrance to our inner self.  When we feel trust, we readily open that door, leading to an open exchange with someone else. When we distrust someone, thinking that he or she is somehow a threat, we slam our door quickly and begin to defend ourselves.

The downside of such snap decisions is misinterpreting the signals from our bosses and co-workers, leading us to mislabel friends as foes. Or, perhaps we have trusted someone, only to get stabbed in the back. We might even be sending out signals of our own, causing others to distrust us even when we have their best interests at heart.

Take 5 Steps to Build Trust Using Conversational Intelligence

Conversational Intelligence is our hardwired ability for understanding how to create trust. While it may take many steps over time to restore lost trust, we can start by taking the 5 steps outlined in my TRUST Model.

Step 1: Transparency.  Be open and transparent about what’s on your mind.

Transparency quells the primitive brain, which reacts to fear, threat, and loss. But when we create conditions favorable for trust, people begin to talk openly about their fears. Transparency is also about sharing our intentions so people don’t misinterpret them. Communicate openly with others to quell threats. Send messages of trust that the amygdala understands: “I trust you will not harm me.”

Step 2: Relationship.

Extend the olive branch, even with foes. Extending trust sends messages of friendship to the brain that shift the energy toward appreciation. We know from researchers at the HeartMath Institute that focusing positive energy toward a person (Heart Appreciation) shifts our attention to seek connectivity, reduces the fear of power-over energy, and builds power-with connectivity. This feeling is then understood by others. The heart brain is activated and we sense positive signals of friendship. Partnering Conversations shifts relationships from judgment to respect and enables people to collaborate productively.

When we feel respected and appreciated, the mirror neurons located below the prefrontal cortex activate, enabling us to identify and empathize with others. We stimulate our ability for bonding and collaborating, meaning that levels of oxytocin are increasing. This influx of neurochemicals reinforces trust.

Step 3: Understanding.

We learn people’s thoughts by understanding their needs and emotions.. Understanding their perspective, we can honor them. I believe understanding means we “stand under” the same view of the world. People trust us when they believe we have their best interest at heart. Seek to understand their perspective by listening, without judgment, and connect to their reality. 

Step 4: Shared Success.

Create a vision of shared success with others. With a common view of success, we intuitively trust that others’ decisions will be similar to ours, and that conflicts will work out fairly. Our neocortex functions to help us shape strategies for success. However, when we are attached to being right, we reveal an agenda. Such entrenchment leads to distrust. Trying to persuade others to want our success only creates resistance.

Step 5: Testing assumptions and telling the truth.  

Test perceptions and assumptions about reality. Close the gaps between what you expect and what you get. When truth is discovered together, one shared view of the world emerges. Engage the prefrontal cortex—the executive brain—by shaping conversations that show you the world from another’s perspective. Only then can you can see the bigger picture. You’re not attached to being right and finding fault. Truth-telling starts with being able to see the truth about your own behavior.

Conversational Intelligence – TRUST Rituals

We are designed for connection with others, but when trust is broken we recoil.  Conversational intelligence shows that because we are designed to be social, our brains are sensitive to the signals of trust and distrust. When you use the TRUST Model effectively, you send signals of trust to others that they will pick up on as you openly engage. You activate the trust networks in your own brain, located in the prefrontal cortex, strengthening your capacity to connect with others in healthy and supportive ways.

By listening to connect and by learning to see the world from another’s perspective, you can attain the highest level of relationship with others. You will connect with people differently—and your conversations will reflect this new and powerful insight.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Predefined Skins

Primary Color

Background Color

Example Patterns

demo demo demo demo demo demo demo demo demo demo

Privacy Policy Settings

  • Required Cookies
  • Performance Cookies
  • Functional Cookies
  • Advertising Cookies
These cookies are essential in order to enable you to move around the Sites and use its features, such as accessing secure areas of the Sites and using Vistage’s Services. Since these cookies are essential to operate Vistage’s Sites and Services, there is no option to opt out of these cookies.
These cookies collect information about how visitors our Sites, for instance which pages visitors go to most often. These cookies don’t collect information that identifies a visitor. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. If you do not allow these cookies we will not know when you have visited our site, and will not be able to monitor its performance.

Cookies used

Visual Web Optimizer
These cookies remember information you have entered or choices you make (e.g. as your username, language, or your region), and provide enhanced, more personal features. They may also be used to provide services you have asked for such as watching a video or commenting on a blog. They may be set by us or by third party providers whose services we have added to our pages. If you do not allow these cookies then some or all of these services may not function properly.

Cookies used

Google Analytics
Gravity Forms
These cookies are used to make advertising more relevant to you and your interests. The cookies are usually placed by third party advertising networks. They remember the websites you visit and that information is shared with other parties such as advertisers. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.