The FBI is under deserved scrutiny for its investigation into the 2016 election. In my time as an agent, we welcomed outside inquiries because it’s essential that investigators be non-partisan and non-biased. Lessons from our history books remind us that the result is not always morally acceptable when the few in power decide who should win, or lose, an election. The results may not be to our personal liking, but investigators must be perceived as trustworthy in their pursuit of the truth.
Agents who worked criminal crimes had it easy because it was more of a “just the facts” approach to an investigation. Laws helped to establish clear lines of acceptable behavior. My work was in counterintelligence which relied on building trust. I was assigned the colossal sales job of persuading foreign spies to work for the U.S. government. There’s no possible reason why a foreign spy would want to continue a conversation with me.
It was essential that I created strong relationships built on trust, even when they knew I was an FBI agent. Especially when they knew, because they looked for deception and traps.
As entrepreneurs, business owners, and sales people, you’re in the same boat. You need to persuade others that you’re trustworthy in an era of deceit and cynicism. Maybe what your potential customers hear about you isn’t correct, or even fair, but that doesn’t stop the rumors from flying around and your reputation can be at stake.
Often the question is not whether people lie, it’s what are they lying about? Do they stretch their optimism and hope that business will turn around? Will they create a fabrication like Bernie Madoff? Does the CEO tell a half-truth or do they simply omit an important piece of information?
Here are 5 easy ways to persuade others that you are trustworthy
1. Start With Self-Awareness
Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as being able to remake ourselves—Gandhi
Remember that people deceive themselves as much as they deceive others. They may be unaware of how others perceive them. People can deceive themselves and believe any number of things—sometimes they exaggerate their own importance or abilities to impress others. Sometimes they’re too critical of their own efforts. At other times, they don’t give themselves enough credit for their accomplishments.
The incredible thing about self-deception is that not only are we telling a lie, but we’re lying to ourselves! We all have blind spots about our own performance.
How To Make It Work For You: Don’t sabotage yourself and your best efforts to be seen as trustworthy to others by a lack of self-awareness. Work to understand your emotions—what you feel and what triggered it—so you can choose whether your response is productive and effective. Mental toughness is the ability to manage your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that set you up for success.
2. Keep Your Word
As simple as this sounds, it’s one of the most important steps in building a foundation of trust. Do what you say and say what you do. When you cancel an appointment or fail to follow through, it creates fractures in your trustworthiness.
It might not seem like a big deal to you, but repeated failures to keep your word add up over time. People will perceive you as less trustworthy so when you make a promise, keep it.
How To Make It Work For You: If you can’t keep a promise, explain why you can’t. You may need to make a new promise to make it up. Be sure to keep this new promise no matter what! This also means that you show up on time and respond quickly to emails and phone calls.
3. Learn to Communicate In A Clear Manner
I once had a supervisor who seemed to change his mind every week about the squad’s strategy on reporting contacts with foreign spies. Whether he actually did change his mind or not, his lack of ability to communicate his thoughts undermined our trust in him. His lack of ability to communicate in a clear and consistent manner caused many failed relationships with the agents on his squad.
How To Make It Work For You: Clear and constructive communication encourages honest conversations. It also means they’re willing to admit their mistakes and communicate them to those who both rely upon and trust them. It is an constructive reaction that shows genuine interest in the good of all. A good communicator will also ask for more details to show their interest and acknowledge the experiences or feelings of the other person. They will be consistent in their response and the message they send to others.
4. Commit To The Relationship
Authentic conversations are built when people are committed to grow and deepen the relationship, not just to maintain the status quo. If the relationship is the central consideration, mutual commitments are essential to avoid concerns about manipulation or control in the conversation.
How To Make It Work For You: Speak to the other person’s interests and priorities. Validate them and their choices. Don’t judge their behavior, actions, or choices. It means you will need to invest the time it takes to be a true friend who is concerned about their well-being.
5. Stop Being A Prick; It’s Not All About You
This should be obvious, but the ego is a wild beast that needs to be tamed on a regular basis. Your time with the other person really does need to be about the other person. Trustworthiness can be undermined by vanity and ego when the conversation no longer focuses on the person in front of you.
Research tells us that we are most happy when we have positive social interactions and relationships. Our brain rewards us when we are able to share our views, desires, and goals with others. The simplest way to persuade others that you are trustworthy is make it all about them. And mean it.
How To Make It Work For You: Don’t let your ego override your mouth and good intentions. Don’t talk about yourself. Do spend time with follow-up questions from your last meeting with them. When you make every single statement about the other person and not about yourself, it becomes very powerful. It builds trust because it conveys two simple messages: 1) they are important, and 2) you care about them. It shapes everything else from that point forward.