Doing business globally depends on trust. And it’s clear that the greater the trust, the greater the ability to conduct business effectively across cultures.
My clients often tell me that one of the difficulties they encounter when conducting business internationally is that they don’t know how to quickly build trust. They wonder what they can do to build trust during a short meeting, especially when the meeting is by phone or video conference. I reassure them that regardless of the available time or nature of the interaction, I can show them proven ways to influence the degree to which others trust them. And these honestly don’t require significant time or effort to implement. Sound too good to be true?
Not if you know what to do. First, it’s important to be aware that, regardless of our cultural background, we all make quick decisions about who to trust and who not to trust. In my seminars and intercultural communication coaching sessions I show participants how to be aware of this human phenomenon. Rarely do we question these decisions. Instead, we tend to look for proof to validate our initial decision about who is and who is not trustworthy. We then typically work more effectively and comfortably with the people we trust than with the people we don’t trust.
Second, you can’t leave building trust to chance. I am absolutely convinced that it’s essential to actively participate in influencing others to trust you. Because of the quick decisions people make, you rarely get a second chance. That’s why you have to focus on immediately building trust.
You Can Build Trust Faster Than You Think
Whether you are in a face-to-face meeting or in a telephone or video conference, with one person or several, you have only one tool at your disposal — your words. If you don’t take a few minutes to convince others that you are trustworthy, who will? You don’t have to say a lot but you do have to tell them three specific things:
Remember, it’s your responsibility, and no one else’s, to inspire others to trust you.
Here’s What You Do
2. Then spend a few minutes to write two or three sentences about your sincerity, your competence and your reliability. Rewrite them until they are simple, clear and accurately represent that you are indeed sincere, competent and reliable. If English is not your native language, ask a native speaker to verify that what you are saying is easy to understand.
3. Practice saying these sentences out loud to yourself for a few days.
4. Then say these three things the next time you are communicating, either by phone or in person, with business colleagues from another culture who don’t know you well. Don’t expect a particular response or validation, or indeed a reaction of any kind. People may, of course, respond to what you say but that is not required for your communication to be effective.
Example: I’ve expressed my sincerity, competence and reliability several times in this short post. See if you can find where I did that. (Hint – second and third paragraph, and the second-to-last paragraph.) Then notice how that influences how you perceive whether I am sincere, competent and reliable.
This is the Easiest Way to Build Intercultural Trust
Of all the ways that you can build intercultural trust, I have found that this is by far the easiest. What could possibly be easier than simply telling someone that they can trust your sincerity, competence and reliability?
This doesn’t guarantee, of course, that everyone who hears what you say will automatically trust you. But I get lots of positive feedback from my clients on how well this worked for them. So I can guarantee that you will see an overall increase in trust.
Even more importantly, you’ll be learning one of the most vital skills any intercultural communicator can master: using words with a very specific and clear intention. Within intercultural contexts words are our only reliable tool for persuading others. That includes persuading them to trust us.