Preserving Trust Relationships

by Cathy Hammer

Retaining your precious customers.  Collaborating on a revolutionary product.  Merging two companies to create a dynamic enterprise.  All of these critical business concerns rely on trust relationships to be successful.  As we’ve seen all too often in the latest headlines, once this trust is broken it can be difficult to repair.  In fact, building a trust relationship is one of the few things we do that gets harder with each attempt.

There are distinct phases that two people must go through in order to build trust.  If a stage is rushed or skipped all together, the relationship won’t hold up under the pressures of a typical work environment.  It starts by assessing one another; asking probing questions and storing away the answers.  Once there is a shared knowledge and understanding, a level of confidence can develop.  Eventually that confidence grows into trust.  If that trust is damaged, the cycle starts from the beginning with a fresh assessment.  This time, there will be a layer of doubt and apprehension that acts as a filter over the answers, and confidence and trust will be harder to achieve.

As a society, we’ve grown far too casual with our trust relationships.  We rush to trust sources of information we haven’t fully vetted.  Fear of competition makes us secretive when communication is called for.  We rely on hasty apologies when our actions harm others.  These are vain attempts to make an end run around basic human psychology.  However clever your lawyer may be, you cannot build a healthy business on contracts and paperwork alone.  You can only make reliable progress by preserving your trust relationships.

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