• Helen

3 conversation secrets that build trust

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

Turn up on time

It’s very simple, we arrive a few minutes early before the start of each engagement, always. How hard is that? Well for some people, it seems ridiculously hard.

When we arrive with time to spare for any kind of conversation, without saying a word we ooze integrity, we show that we care about having this moment with this person, and quite frankly it says, we have our sh#t together. Very very powerful. And we haven’t even said a word yet.

Hello late people, nice of you to join. Spare the excuses.

If you are wondering what qualifies as late, I’d be curious to know your answer. Are you thinking a classic five minutes or maybe a creative ten, or a breathless two? Well if you want to build trust, not even one minute is acceptable. Outch! When I pitch up late, I’m making it clear that I’m a leaf in the wind of my own melodrama, and my chaotic life takes priority over everyone else’s. But hey, I’m here now, what more do you want? An apology?! “OK-sorry-I’m-late........ any chance of a coffee before we get started?"

Being late eats away at our credibility. Telling the story about why we are late eats away even more. We all have traffic issues, back-to-back meetings, unexpected phone calls and emergencies. Some people deal with them in a way that ensures they don’t let others down, they keep everyone informed on the rare occasion that they are held up beyond their control so those impacted can make informed decisions to reschedule, wait, start without them etc. Many people don’t bother aka don't care.

Lateness creates a low-level noise that starts to hiss in the head of the waiting person. It can subside over the course of a good conversation but be late again, and that noise gets louder and lasts for longer, interfering with the waiting person’s ability to listen clearly. Be late regularly and very little of what you say will be heard over the constant crackling interference. That noise is negative judgements about you, which you created.

Why work so hard to get a good job, be respected, get promoted, be taken seriously only to throw it aside with poor self-management? Be on time.


Listen for facts, listen to how they feel about the facts, acknowledge them for sharing. “Thanks for opening up, it means a lot.” "Thanks for sharing, I can only imagine how that must have made you feel.”

To ensure you heard the right thing, just summarize what you believe you heard. “If I understand you well, Y happened and it makes you feel X. Is that correct?” Let them edit that picture if it’s slightly off. It feels weird to do it, but it doesn’t sound weird to hear the playback, it sounds like you are listening and engaged, because, guess what, you are!

Ask permission to share your thoughts, ideas and ask questions

Regardless of who it is, be it a junior employee, your child, your partner, your best mate, your boss, genuinely ask permission before sharing your thoughts and ideas and wait for them to give you the go ahead. This is possibly the most respectful thing you can do in a conversation after actually listening. It sounds like, “While you were explaining ’that thing’ I had a few ideas that came to mind, would you be interested to hear them?” Or simply “May I share my experience of a similar situation with you?”.

If you want to know more, ask “May I ask you a question or two about that?” Or “Would you be open to tell me more?” And if they say no, don’t take it personally. Move on. PS They rarely say no.

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