According to relationship expert John Gottman, it takes five positive interactions (aka “deposits”) to make up for one negative interaction. Gottman was referring to romantic relationships, but the same holds true for professional ones.
Do you build trust at work by making “deposits” regularly? Or do you think having an amazing portfolio and doing great work for your clients is enough?
Here are five seemingly harmless things I have seen people do, or, admittedly, I have done myself that get in the way of building trust.
1. Talking Too Much
Every client meeting provides an opportunity to build trust. Resist your urge to talk. Let the client talk 80% of the time. You have one job — to focus on listening in an active mode. When someone feels heard, it builds trust, loyalty, and commitment in the relationship.
2. Not Responding Quickly
How long does it usually take you to respond to a client’s message? A few hours? A day? Or whenever you get to it? Whether or not the message is really urgent is not the point. What’s important is that the faster you respond, the more trust you build.
I aim to respond within 15 minutes. If I am unable to write a thoughtful reply right away, I let them know I saw their message and will get to it in a few hours. When you respond quickly every time, people feel they can count on you.
3. Avoiding Meetings
I used to brush off meetings as time wasters and rely solely on email or project management software for client communications. Not any more. Face time is critical in the early stage of a relationship because a huge part of our communication is nonverbal. Meeting face-to-face also encourages discussion and immediate feedback, which are all conducive to building trust.
4. Keeping Things Strictly Business
Not every topic discussed has to be business-related. You, like your clients, have a life outside of work. When appropriate, share your passions and hobbies. Talk about your family a little bit. Getting to know each other on a more personal level fosters trust. I found that getting to know people is the easiest when done over food — like a breakfast meeting, coffee chat, or happy hour drink … of course, when it becomes safe to do so again.
5. Playing It Safe
You are not perfect and your clients don’t expect you to be. Pretending that you have all the answers or always “play it safe” makes you less trustworthy. It is actually much easier to build trust when you are comfortable with being vulnerable — express your feelings, show your rough edges and admit your weaknesses.
When you are up against others who can do equally great work, your differentiation lies in how you nurture your relationships and how you make people feel about working with you.