How Can Your Words Build or Break Trust With Co-Workers?
At Bovo-Tighe, we focus on the “How” of team engagement and productivity. We work with people and teams to improve their ability to work together to achieve great goals and missions. Part of that improvement process includes learning “how” to lead people and collaborate better by changing your habitual ways of communicating.
This is part of our “communication that counts” leadership mindset. Are you encouraging or discouraging people with how you respond to their input? Examine your own response style.
- How do you greet people?
- How do you respond to new ideas?
- How much do you seek criticism, and how do you respond when you receive it?
- How encouraging are you of “creative destruction”?
- How much person-to-person interaction do you seek each day?
These are just a few questions to get you started in exploring how your outward conversational behavior impacts the enthusiasm and commitment of those with whom you work.
We have seen a number of articles online recently that focus on this topic. One, by Aja Frost on TheMuse, a personal improvement blog, boils it down to a key brass tack: The words you habitually use to respond to input from others strongly affects how they receive your response. Ms. Frost highlights the key point, which we paraphrase here:
You can say the same thing multiple ways. You have to choose the words that build trust and encourage initiative, rather than the words that cut people off or devalue their contribution. Good words raise morale, bad words kill it.
Here are just a couple of Frost’s suggestions:
Say an idea is “brilliant” rather than simply “good.”
“The last time someone called my suggestion brilliant, it made my day,” writes Frost. “’Brilliant’ is much more powerful than “great,” “awesome,” or any of the other adjectives we typically call on to praise someone’s work or concept.”
When someone asks a question, rather than keeping uncertainty to themselves, encourage that act with a validating response like “that’s a great question” and “thanks for asking that question.”
“When someone asks a question, he or she’s admitting to not knowing something,” notes Frost. With your validating response, you encourage the person to be “proud to have zeroed in on a crucial-but-missing element of the conversation. And, as a bonus, this comment encourages future questions—which leads to a healthy and transparent environment.”
These are just two. Frost lists more. You should create your own list. Think about how you respond to others during professional conversations. Do your responses build bridges and encourage participation, or cut promising lines of inquiry off? Seek the former; avoid the latter!
Finally, as Frost notes and we concur, you must be careful to use the words that the situation merits. You must avoid the overuse of enthusiasm, as you don’t want to seem inauthentic in your engagement efforts.
If this interests you, you might also like this LinkedIn post by Geoff Colvin, which explores the power of personal interaction, and how virtual work environments lose that power by limiting in-person interactions.