Trust: The Missing Piece?

Consider handling a criticism or objection from an unfamiliar stakeholder or someone you generally distrust, as they speak you'll notice yourself 'taxing' them - discounting everything they say. This can lead to a reinforced cycle of insecurity and distrust and inhibit effective responses to complex project conditions.

Trust is the currency of open and free-flowing communication. So, it’s likely you’ve seen the cost of trust on communication first-hand. Imagine a conversation with a colleague you deeply trust, and who trusts you. Even when you may be handling a difficult objection or delivering bad news; not only will this person understand your meaning, but they’ll understand your intent

Imagine a conversation with a colleague you deeply trust, and who trusts you. Even when you may be handling a difficult objection or delivering bad news; not only will this person understand your meaning, but they’ll understand your intent

Now consider this situation flipped, with a colleague you distrust or an unfamiliar stakeholder. Imagine them delivering a harsh criticism on an important project of yours. As they speak you will notice yourself ‘taxing’ them – discounting everything they say be it 20 percent, 30 percent or even more. In reciprocation this person will misinterpret your meaning regardless of how measured and precise your words may be. 


In a rapidly changing business environment, it’s unsurprising that higher trust relationships allow for more effective responses to complex or changing conditions. It’s the process of how we get there that remains less obvious. When making a decision in response to an unfamiliar situation or criticism, one of the key influences on trust is past learning. Drawing on our previous knowledge of that person or perhaps just a similar situation, we apply this response to the current challenge. Over time, this response becomes quick and reinforced, relying more on automation than consideration. While one of the benefits of this is an ability to act decisively in a short period of time, what we lose is the ability to flexibly hear and respond to the environment around us.

While one of the benefits of this is an ability to act decisively in a short period of time, what we lose is the ability to flexibly hear and respond to the environment around us.

Resultingly, when faced with a challenging objection or criticism it can be easy to fall into an ongoing pattern of distrust or insecurity. This cycle in turn inhibits our growth and ability to work through new challenges towards our desired results. When we accept that trust can be created through not only competency, but also embracing mistakes we create an entirely new possibility of exponential growth and collaboration.

While Rome (and trust) wasn't built in a day, here are a few things you can implement immediately when facing objections to enhance trust and growth:

1. Realise that you have a choice.

How you interpret challenges, setbacks and criticism is your choice. Are criticisms a sign of your lacking talent and ability? Or are they simply a new opportunity to ramp up your strategies and efforts and stretch yourself? It’s up to you.

2. Increase Credibility

Be pro-active and take ownership of your choices. Avoid looking for ways of blaming others or circumstances. What is your behavior saying? Step back, pause, and take responsibility for being part of the solution. And most of all: make sure that there is little gap between what you say and what you do.

3. Learn to hear your fixed mindset “voice” and talk back to it

As you face objections, this voice might say “This person is just being difficult” or “I’m really disappointed in you, you’re obviously not as capable as you thought.” Talk back to it with your growth mindset voice ““If I don’t take responsibility, I can’t fix it. Let me listen—however painful it is– and learn whatever I can.”

4. Lead by example – show that you really care

You listen ​first. You demonstrate respect for what you hear. You clarify expectations, and you focus on and agree on a mutual process for accountability to those expectations. That includes giving the why behind the what – make declaring your intent the norm.

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