Are you trustworthy? Yes, of course you are. Most people set out to do the right thing and consider themselves honest and reliable. In fact, integrity is often a core value and to say someone lacks integrity or is untrustworthy would be taken as a huge insult.
However, intention and perception are two completely different things. In the workplace, where leaders are often judged on their trustworthiness, they can very quickly be perceived and categorised as untrustworthy.
This can be because of tangible, factual reasons, i.e. they never do what they say they will, or they tell one person one thing but tell others something completely different, or, it can be something much more intangible, a feeling, a gut reaction.
When it comes to perception we can very easily switch from citing factual, tangible reasons to all sorts of intangible reasons i.e. “he looks dodgy”, “I have a funny feeling about her”, “there is something odd about him”.
It’s all in the neuroscience
In a recent webinar, Amy Brann told us about the neuroscience behind trust, and how we release oxytocin when we feel we can trust someone. Oxytocin makes us feel content, calm and secure. It increases our ability to bond with others and decreases our level of fear.
So, if you are trustworthy and you do what you say you will, why might some people question your trustworthiness? Well, I think it is often about incongruence, where, regardless your intentions, aspects of what you are portraying to others are perceived as misaligned.
For example, as a manager you have to tell your team about some significant changes that will affect them. You are sure it will be for the best but at the moment you haven’t fully thought it through yourself. You want to tell your team straight away, because that is the honest thing to do and you don’t want to keep anything from them. However, this means you are a little unconfident when you do tell them and it is obvious that you don’t have all the answers.
From their point of view, even though you claimed you were being open and honest, you couldn’t answer all their questions (and they translated this as you probably hiding something). Also, you seemed uncomfortable when you told them (which they translated as ‘shifty’).
When our actions and the way we communicate do not align, we are not congruent. When that happens it seems to ‘flick a switch’ in others which they often translate as untrustworthy.
During the webinar Amy asked us to think about how we lead and what we can do to ensure we are perceived as trustworthy.
I have to say that being congruent would definitely be on my list.
Stephanie Morgan FLPI, Director of Learning Solutions, Bray Leino Learning
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