Three Keys to Build Trusting Workplaces
We all know it. We are living in highly polarized times, where skepticism and cynicism are coming more naturally. The problem is, polarizing ideas don’t stay in the newspaper or on TV. If we let them, they become part of our psyches and go with us wherever we go, including into our workplaces, our team meetings, and our individual interactions with colleagues.
Over the holidays, as many of you probably did, my family came into a couple of close calls with the political tension. Fortunately for us, no heated arguments erupted because in each case, someone on at least one side of the potential conflict displayed the following three critical behaviors that enabled the conversation to continue in a space of trust.
- Be Aware: Each of us have different opinions, different thought processes, and different beliefs. They are all based on our personal experiences, including our successes and failures. We all see different shades of gray, or sometimes strictly
black and white, when it comes to the conflicts that are swirling in current events. It’s never just about the words being spoken. It’s always about the extra stuff we add to the words and the “facts.” Be aware of what you are bringing to the table with yours.
- Listen to Understand: When you know your “stuff,” you can have self-aware conversations that allow you to stay more open to what the “other” has to offer. When you actually focus and listen to what the other person is saying, how they are saying it, and look for “why” they are saying it, you can begin to understand where they are coming from. You don’t have to agree with them; you just have to recognize that their experiences, their beliefs, and their intentions are different from your own. Different – not good or bad.
- Be Tolerant: When you can listen to understand, you can learn to have tolerance for ideas that are different from your own, motivations that are different from yours, goals and dreams that are different and are being affected by the conflict. Then, you can work to keep trust by tolerating differences, which are in fact the flavors that keep life interesting.
Using these behaviors in the workplace will allow you to back away from polarization to more trust-based communication. Understanding yourself allows you to be more open and transparent with others. Openness enhances trusting individual relationships and, as a manager, helps you to build stronger, more effective teams.