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“Trust is built when someone is vulnerable and not taken advantage of.”

-Bob Vanourek, Triple Crown Leadership

At Friday’s GBN meeting, a member of the group got up to tell the members all about his business. He gave a clear, cogent 10-minute presentation. I was duly impressed, but a new member of the group asked, “Why should I do business with you?”
He answered the question in a way that applied to his particular situation, but I would like to try to answer this question more globally: People do business with you when they trust you.
Do people trust you? How would you know? What evidence do you have that they trust you?
If others trust you, you have given your business a tremendous boost. If they do not trust you, you are sabotaging your ability to succeed.
In No One Understands You and What to Do About it, Heidi Grant Halvorson, a professor and Director of the Motivational Science Center at Columbia University, cited research that reduced trust to two dimensions. She wrote, “The decision to trust is made almost entirely unconsciously and is based on the extent to which you project warmth and competence.”[1]
Warmth
What does warmth look like? She explained that we pick up on certain signaling behaviors in others.

When people try to appear warm, they often do things like give compliments, perform favors, and show interest in the perceiver’s thoughts and feelings. They try to display qualities like kindness, sincerity, empathy, and friendliness, each of which captures some aspect of valuing others as least as much as, if not more than, you value yourself.[2]

In this, Halvorson is restating St. Paul’s advice: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”[3]
Competence
Competence is a bit easier for most of us. We are more comfortable with this concept. How do you project competence? Halvorson explained:

Making eye contact while speaking is, in fact, significantly correlated with IQ—and somehow, people seem to know it. Those who make eye contact are consistently judged as more intelligent. While we’re at it, easy-to-understand communication, faster speech rate, gesturing, nodding, and upright posture all lead to perceptions of greater competency, too.[4]

Additional factors of competence include the appearance of willpower, avoiding over-competence, looking the part, and focusing on future potential.[5]
In a Harvard Business School Webinar, Influence at Work: What Gets in Your Way and What to Do About It, Halvorson uses the Simpsons to illustrate how this works. The sweet spot is to be both warm and competent.
 

  • If you are both warm and competent, you are like Lisa Simpson.
  • If you are competent, but cold, you are like the show’s villain, Mr. Burns.
  • If you are warm but incompetent, you are like the lovable dolt, Homer Simpson.
  • If you are cold and incompetent, you are like the bartender, Moe.

How trustworthy are you? I am not asking if you appear to be warm and competent. I am asking if you are both warm and competent. People can tell if you are sincere or not. They come equipped with excellent BS detectors and they can tell if you are the genuine article or if you are putting on a show. And this either attracts them or drives them further from you.
Are you trustworthy? If you are not, do you need to work on warmth or competence (or both)? Take the time to think about how others experience you.

End Notes

[1] Halvorson, H. G. (2015). No One Understands You and What to Do about It. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing. (p. 84).
[2] Halvorson, H. G. (2015). No One Understands You and What to Do about It. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing. (p. 68).
[3] Philippians 2:3-4 (New International Version).
[4] Halvorson, H. G. (2015). No One Understands You and What to Do about It. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing. (p. 72).
[5] Halvorson, H. G. (2015). No One Understands You and What to Do about It. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing. (pp. 73-80).