To produce a remarkable effect, you need to do more than develop your skills and put in the work. You also need to inspire trust. Without it, your ability to influence others will be greatly limited, regardless of how much expertise you have.
For example, picture someone you don’t trust. If they suggest a new idea to you, it’s highly unlikely that you will be open to their suggestion, even if it’s a good one. Without trust, you meet resistance.
The reverse also applies. If someone you trust asks you for help with something that requires particular effort, it’s more likely that you will be open to hearing them out and allow yourself to be influenced by the ideas they express.
In a working environment, you strengthen or weaken your credibility constantly. Understanding what makes the difference between building trust and creating suspicion gives you a considerable advantage for success.
MEASURE THE EFFECT YOU HAVE ON OTHERS
When you communicate, you produce an effect. Your choice of words, your tone, your intonation, your posture and your facial expression are all elements that influence the message you are imparting.
Research shows, however, that words don’t have quite the influence you would think – even in a highly specialized technical context. According to studies by University of California psychology professor Albert Mehrabian:
- 7% of verbal communication is verbal (word choice and meaning)
- 38% is vocal or paraverbal (tone, intonation, vocal cadence)
- 55% is visual or non-verbal (posture, gesture, facial expression)
The effect of your communications is therefore not limited to your reasoning and your choice of words. These elements are essential, but they are not enough. Your way of speaking and your manner produce a considerable effect on your listeners.
Think of an introverted expert who lacks self-confidence. The weak timbre of his voice, his hesitant intonation and his poor posture can damage his ability to rally others to his cause. His influence is weakened by his paraverbal expression and non-verbal language, despite the relevance of his suggestions.
The working of the human mind itself is at fault here. The words used involve the listener’s rational thinking. Meanwhile, the human mind cogitates on two separate levels: the rational and the intuitive. Intuitively, beyond words, we detect the mood and emotional state of the speaker by interpreting their nonverbal and paraverbal language. If these are not in tune with their words, the trust relationship is weakened and their ability to produce an effect is reduced.
THE THREE COMPONENTS OF TRUST
In a professional context, the trust you inspire comes from:
1) your expertise;
2) your presence;
3) your reliability.
At work, it goes without saying that the trust you inspire depends on your skills and your knowledge. However, these alone are not enough. You also need to express yourself clearly to optimize your appeal to your listener’s rational side.
For example, if you consult a mechanic to repair your car, knowing absolutely nothing about this field, you will be confused if the mechanic explains the estimate using jargon that you can’t understand. You may feel suspicious and decide to seek a second opinion, especially if the estimate seems high! It is the same when you speak with a client who does not share your level of expertise. You will only be able to appeal to their intelligence and convince them of your skill if they are able to understand you. Failing to adapt your vocabulary is a surefire way to weaken your credibility.
Your presence depends on everything that revolves around your words. How can you guarantee your listeners’ attention? Describe your idea with dynamic intonation, punctuated with pauses and changes in tone, and watch how absorbed they are by your words. You will appeal to them on an intuitive level by projecting an image of yourself that is dedicated, passionate and sincere. Present your idea with a monotone and lifeless intonation, and your credibility may take a hit.
The same goes for your posture and facial expressions. The latter must match your words, since your listeners’ intuition may detect any lack of authenticity or conviction in your address, negatively affecting the amount of credibility they give you.
Your presence also depends on your ability to remain in the present moment. Active listening and demonstrating empathy: these human values never fail to inspire trust, making your listener feel close to you.
Last but not least: be reliable. Respect your promises and your listeners will trust you, since they will be in a position to legitimately determine that you are a trustworthy person. It is also important to show that you are in constant control of your emotions. This lets people know that you can be counted on, even in difficult situations.
DO YOU INSPIRE TRUST?
The last time you prepared for a meeting, what percentage of your efforts were devoted to your PowerPoint presentation or the report that you wrote for the occasion? Was it 95%? Or 100%? Remember: words only represent 7% of what you communicate.
Did you think over the relationship you have with your listener beforehand? Are you already credible in their eyes? To what extent will your manner and way of speaking contribute to your success?
Invest as much time as you need to ensure you present rational arguments and use impeccable logic, but do not neglect your way of speaking nor your manner. These are your greatest assets when you need to inspire trust and influence others.