A New Twist on Earning Trust
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Earning trust is critical to establishing a robust business relationship. But it gets complicated when you drill into the research to determine how to do this.
Think about your own relationships. Who do you trust? I mean really trust. Who would you rely on to look after your spouse after your death? Or to be the executor of your will or the guardian of your children in the event you both die?
Now ask yourself this question: Why do you trust that person? What is there about them that gives you that special feeling?
Three magic words
An article in Forbes noted the dictionary definition of trust is, “feeling safe when vulnerable.” In those moments of need, we turn to someone we trust for comfort and guidance.
Elements of building trust include reliability, transparency, competency, sincerity, fairness and “openness and vulnerability.”
Most advisors meet those standards, except the last one.
You can’t project an image of “openness and vulnerability” while lecturing and educating.
There’s a basic misunderstanding about what’s required to project “competency” and “vulnerability.” You can be extremely confident and still be vulnerable by uttering three magic words: I don’t know.
There much about investing you don’t know. You don’t know the impact of the pandemic on the economy, the direction of the market, how to pick stock “winners” or how to select actively managed mutual funds that will outperform in the short and (especially) long term.
Acknowledging the limitations of your knowledge and your past mistakes will enhance your trustworthiness. We can all relate to imperfection, because we are imperfect ourselves. What causes us to recoil is the advisor who has everything figured out – whose responses are down pat and who expresses opinions that leave no room for discussion.
A fundamental misunderstanding
Look at your website. What image does it project?
The majority of advisors’ websites are filled with data, resources and other information intended to show their competence. Your expertise is important to build what is known as “cognitive” trust, but there’s another aspect of trust often ignored. It’s called “affective” trust.
Affective trust is established when there’s an emotional connection. It transcends competence. When you have achieved affective trust, you believe the other person’s concern for your welfare is much more than a commercial relationship.
In your personal life, you may have experienced affective trust with your dentist, physician, pharmacist, accountant and others. You believe there’s no way these people would take advantage of you, even though they could easily do so.
One study looked at these two forms of trust and found both are necessary for successful relationships. Initially, you need to establish cognitive trust. Once that’s accomplished, it’s time to work on affective trust.
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A co-author of the study, Dr. Graham Massey, noted: “When both forms of trust exist, relationships become strong and enduring. This is one of the holy grails of marketing, to help businesses build strong relationships with customers and clients.”
How do you establish affective trust? Massey believes you do so by showing real care and concern.
So how do you do that?
My research indicates the best way to show you really care about someone (in any context) is to stop talking, reject the temptation to lecture or educate and, instead, ask questions. Once you train your brain to elicit information, instead of conveying it, focus on your listening skills. By listening carefully to responses to your questions and asking thoughtful, sensitive follow-up questions, you demonstrate a genuine and sincere interest in the other person.
That’s the first step towards achieving affective trust and a rewarding relationship.