A while back I did a blog entry on handling conflict. One comment rightly pointed out that a basic foundation of trust was assumed and suggested I write an entry on how to build trust. I thought that was an excellent suggestion. Here’s my first take on it– please feel free to add your own best thoughts on the topic in the comments section.

To me, the most important way of building trust is by truly listening. Ask questions, listen, help them unpack their own thoughts fully before suggesting your own. So often we come with our own agenda and expectations. We think we know what they need, so we don’t truly listen to them. There is a power in understanding another person’s perspective without trying to correct it. That approach treats a person with dignity and respect… which then builds trust.

I once had a first coaching conversation with a client and asked him, “What would be important for me to know about you?” After a few minutes of talking, he found he was sharing a very important and difficult part of his life with me, and he said, “I can’t believe I’m telling you this.” When you genuinely listen without an agenda and truly seek to understand, that goes a long ways. Then you can accurately understand what they’re saying, unpacking their thoughts until they’re finished.

At that time, it’s much easier to ask for permission to share your perspective. The trust is there. A lot of people don’t take the time to listen or only pretend to be listening because they’re in a hurry. People can tell if you’re not listening and it damages trust. The person talking thinks, “I’m not sure I can trust this person because they’re not hearing what I’m saying. They’re not taking the time to make sure they understand me. I can tell they’re really not listening. They might just hear a sound bite, and take it out of context.”

Do you listen for sound bites? Or do you really listen?