One of the things that has caught my attention over the past couple of weeks is around the issue of trust, or rather the lack of it! I’m finding trusting what anyone says in the build up to the UK EU referendum tricky, but now we also have the whole ‘rich people and offshore accounts’ stuff, which among other things has created a void of trust around David Cameron whose response to questions about his involvement has been seen as slow and reluctant. Over the weekend it has reached quite a crescendo (picture from itv.com).
And as far as I can make out, the trust is gone not because Mr Cameron has done anything wrong from a legal perspective: what seems to have blown it for him is his reluctance to be open and his lack of alignment to what others see as right.
On the openness issue there is an echo from a Ted Talk I watched of Joe Gebbia, the co-founder of Airbnb, ‘the worldwide alternative to hotels’. Airbnb is a website that connects travellers who are looking for a cheap place to stay with those who have a spare bed (air bed?!) that they are happy to rent out.
But how do you convince people that letting a stranger in to their home is a good idea? What level of trust has to exist for that to be OK, and how do you get it?
Gebbia has been successful in designing a website that enables people to share enough of themselves so that they have a “connection beyond the transaction”, a connection based on trust. One of the keys he identified in creating this sharing economy is that to be trusted by someone we need to share enough of ourselves, but not too much! Too much looks like your whole life story, as if you are talking to your best friend when all you want is a bed for the night. Not enough looks like you are still a stranger, secretive or trying to hide something. Enough looks like sharing what is appropriate for the level of relationship so that the other person knows enough to trust you. This idea of the appropriateness of sharing is the same when we are building rapport. The different levels of rapport are shown on the Robert Dilts’ triangle that we have seen in earlier blogs:
I don’t need every level with everyone I meet. Standing at the bus stop with you I just need an environment and behaviour level of trust and rapport. I have the option that if my trust of you is wrong then I can walk away: it’s no big deal. But to have you in my home I also need to trust you at a beliefs and values level: that I believe it is OK to bring you in to that personal space, that you will value it as I do, that it will be OK. The level of rapport I need now is much higher than when I’m just standing next to you at the bus stop. I need to trust you more.
It seems that David Cameron has failed to make a ‘connection beyond the transaction’. At the beginning of last week he offered us an environment and behavioural level of rapport, perhaps anticipating that all people wanted was to trust him around the facts: that he behaved appropriately, that he didn’t break any tax laws. But it seems that’s not what many wanted. What they wanted was to know that his beliefs and values are aligned with theirs, that like them he disapproves of the rich taking advantage of the system. His failure to share straight away at that level, to have information eked out of him rather than volunteering it, has lost him their trust.
Had Mr Cameron appreciated the three fundamentals of building rapport things could have been different:
Be open about and agree the outcome that you are aiming for: the public wanted more than he wanted to offer (creating a ‘what is he hiding’ situation) so trust and rapport were damaged
Use your sensory acuity to help really understand what the other person needs: if he had taken the time to see what others needed he’d have realised it was reassurance of beliefs and values and would perhaps have offered more at that level sooner
Be flexible: if he’d used the insight from the first two he could have delivered his message in a way that worked better for everyone. He didn’t and has been desperately trying to retrieve the situation since, ending in the publication of his tax returns
Joe Gebbia and his colleagues took the time to use these three steps to create relationships with and between their website users that achieved the right level of trust for it to work. David Cameron last week? Not so much, and trust in him has been damaged.
Whenever we are working with others we can choose to use these simple steps to help us avoid the Cameron experience and ensure we don’t blow the trust others place in us. But all of us sometimes, just like the PM, will get it wrong. When we do we can use these three steps to help us rebuild the trust we have lost.
A foot note to the Airbnb story: apparently tenants are filling their flats with Airbnbers without letting their landlords know. Sadly for those involved it has blown that trust relationship to bits. But perhaps they too can use the three steps above to regroup and rebuild.
It’s great to be sharing Choose You ideas with you. Would love to hear your thoughts so do send me a message in the box below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org