Building Trust, One Conversation at a Time

“Trust Me”

I suspect that these two words may be the two scariest words in English language. I recall times I’ve heard these words as I was laying in a dentist’s chair or balancing atop an icy crest on a mountaintop as my skiing partner beckons me to follow him down a minefield of moguls.

Perhaps it’s because trusting someone feels like a leap of faith, particularly when you haven’t had the time to cultivate a long-term relationship or you’re feeling unprepared, or fearful.

So is there a way to build trust without years of demonstrating goodwill? Can we cultivate trust with people we’ve only recently met? The answer is “Yes!” but only if you understand the language of trust and how the brain learns to trust.

Sadly, the biggest block to trust is our own brain, which has a built-in negative bias against anything new or different. The brain is constantly on high alert for threats and anything that looks, or feels, scary puts the brain into freeze, fight or flight mode. Through this lens of fear or resistance, it’s difficult to fall into the warm embrace of trust. When it comes to brain function, fear and trust are mutually exclusive.

So how can we move people from fear to trust in a short amount of time? Well you can try to LOOK trustworthy, but that’s risky. Apparently, even clowns can’t be trusted anymore. So we are left with actions, language, or the promise of 100% satisfaction guarantee (which even the most well-intentioned lover has failed to deliver 100% of the time).

Consistent or exceptional behavior or actions are the best way to earn trust. Everyone remembers a trusted vendor by the exceptional actions they took to meet your needs. Another way to earn trust is to deliver on ALL of your promises. A tall order, I know; that is why it’s exceptional, as it distinguishes you from those other folks.

Outside of being exceptional in your actions or deeds, the only other way to earn trust is to speak the language of trust and that is as simple as shifting your language from ME to WE. This trusting business can be scary but it’s easier if we have a buddy. Nobody wants to walk into the haunted house alone.  It’s easier if WE walk into the haunted house together.

The language of WE calms the brain and gets it out of fear mode. Imagine a customer is asking for something that you can’t currently provide. One response could be, “that’s impossible, I can’t do that!” Another response could be, “Hmmm, an interesting request. If I was able to find a way to grant that request how might WE both benefit?” When they respond, follow that up with “I like that win/win, how else might WE get to the same outcome?” The brain under threat sees only one path to get what you want, but there are likely many ways to get there. If you partner with someone to explore ALL of those paths to a win-win there is a good chance you will find one that actually does work. Through this conversation, you’re crafting what we Conversational Intelligence® coaches call a “shared success.”

In that shared success, you co-create; the energy shifts and you positively prime your brain for more success in your work together. Your brain puts your client in the category of “ally” instead of “enemy” and is primed to listen and be creative rather than be resistant or distrustful.

We sometimes fail to build trust when we imagine that in order to bring value we must come with the pre-packaged solution. That doesn’t always work, as we lose the opportunity to co-create solutions that better serve our clients and ourselves. Conversational intelligence means knowing when to be quiet and just listen and knowing when to share ideas, share credit, and share success.

Life and business can sometimes feel like a haunted house, or the “Escape Room.” Both of these environments trigger fear, and in fear the brain performs so poorly that we often forget we are in a stage set—a thin, particle-board wall away from freedom. The only way to overcome that fear is to nurture a feeling of safety, adopting the belief that WE will find a way out of this together, which fosters excitement around finding a solution that gets both parties out of harm’s way and closer to shared success.

In this framework, “Trust Me” morphs into “I trust WE will find the solution that benefits both of us.” Not so scary, right?

Laura S. Scott PCC, CPC, ELI-MP is an Executive and Leadership Coach certified in Conversational Intelligence® and the President of 180 Coaching, a Tampa-based Leadership Training and Coaching services provider. Email: [email protected] or visit to find out more.