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Courageous Conversations: Building Trust

A courageous conversation is a strategic communication tool that’s designed to elicit significant operational change to affect performance improvement.

Trust is essential to assure that the message is received and internalized.

Managers shouldn’t take this lightly: plan for trust.  The items below present ways to build trust before a difficult conversation include:

  1. Establish Rapport: Create a positive and respectful atmosphere by being prepared, maintaining emotional control, and entering the conversation with a positive attitude[1].
  2. Practice Openness and Honesty: Demonstrate openness and honesty to set expectations for the conversation and encourage others to reciprocate, fostering trust[1].
  3. Listen Actively: Allow others to talk, actively listen, reflect on what was said, and adapt your communication style to match theirs, promoting comfort and trust[1][3].
  4. Observe Body Language: Pay attention to body language and verbal cues, mirroring positive behaviors to create common energy and build trust[1][3].
  5. Take Action: Follow through on commitments and do what you say you will do to show reliability and build credibility, reinforcing trust through actions[1][4].
  6. Ask Open Questions: Engage in dialogue by asking open-ended questions from a place of genuine curiosity to understand others’ perspectives and demonstrate empathy[5].
  7. Seek Understanding: Prioritize understanding the other person’s viewpoint over convincing them of your own, engaging in dialogue rather than discussion to build trust[5].

Nonverbal Cues Can Build Trust

Some nonverbal cues that can help build trust during a difficult conversation include:

  1. Maintaining Eye Contact: Direct and consistent eye contact signals interest, engagement, and sincerity, fostering trust and connection[1][2][3].
  2. Open Body Posture: Having an open body posture, such as facing the person directly and avoiding crossed arms, conveys receptiveness and honesty, enhancing trust[1][3].
  3. Facial Expressions: Genuine smiles and expressive facial expressions can communicate warmth, positivity, and sincerity, contributing to building trust[1][3].
  4. Matching Behavior: Mirroring the other person’s gestures, facial expressions, and behaviors subtly can create a sense of connection and empathy, fostering trust[2].
  5. Appropriate Touch: Respectful and appropriate physical contact can convey care and comfort if culturally acceptable, contributing to building trust in the conversation[3].
  6. Consistent Nonverbal Signals: Ensuring that your nonverbal cues align with your verbal communication reinforces trust by demonstrating consistency and reliability[4].
  7. Respectful Posture and Gestures: Maintaining a relaxed posture, using open gestures, and showing respect through body language can create a positive atmosphere for communication, enhancing trust[4].

By incorporating these strategies, managers can lay a foundation of trust before difficult conversations, fostering an environment conducive to open communication, mutual respect, and constructive dialogue.