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Thursday, 2 August 2012

Can trust and rapport be faked?

Do you remember Kaa the snake in Disney's Jungle Book? Although he was just an animated character, he had a profound effect on me as a child. It was probably the first time that it had occurred to me that seemingly 'nice' people could actually be disingenuous. Even today, I still hear that memorable song: "Trussssssssst in meeeeee" whenever my manipulation radar goes off!

The question of whether trust and rapport can be faked may seem obvious: I'm sure you can easily bring to mind several unscrupulous people that you've come across who have managed to use their charm to get what they want. Whether their own interests are money, power, status or simply self-preservation, there are many individuals (and corporations) who are able to influence others by creating a feeling of trust and building a form of rapport.

I'm particularly interested in the every-day interactions between colleagues, suppliers, business partners and managers - the ones where every day, ordinary people create every day, ordinary relationships with each other. As a trainer and coach, one of the questions I often get asked is how to develop trust and rapport. In fact my post on Building Trust and Rapport is by far the most viewed article since I started blogging back in 2007. Whilst it is great news to see that so many people are interested in my musings, it has got me thinking about WHY so many people are looking for tips on this subject.

Why is there an increased need to find quick answers, or magic formulas for creating trust and rapport? We are being regularly told by many different 'experts' that the traditional ways of selling, influencing and doing business are becoming unfashionable and ineffective. Apparently the key to success now lies in our ability to develop relationships with the people we do business with. There's plenty of evidence on LinkedIn: it's positively buzzing with people connecting, exchanging views, messages and information in an attempt to get to know each other. Seeing your number of online connections growing daily, and having interesting dialogues with people you'd be unlikely to find or meet off-line, may give you a buzz, but it's obviously not all just for fun - it's because there's a growing understanding that these sorts of interactions can create very valuable foundations for a relationship with possibilities. 

From a psychological point of view, those who are trusted, and those who trust others, tend to experience less stress and feel generally higher levels of wellbeing. They are also in a far better position to be able to create collaborative, win-win relationships and gain the support of others. We know that people buy from those they trust. They are more influenced by those they trust, and they share information with people who they consider trustworthy...

So anyone who is unscrupulous, desperate or just very outcome focussed who wants to sell, influence or to collect valuable information may well be tempted to seek the "Trussssssssst in meeeeee" approach. But does it work? The answer has to be "sometimes" - as there are those who are naturally quite trusting (some might say naive). However, when I'm asked about tricks for developing trust and rapport in my training or coaching sessions, I always share a small but important caveat with my list of tips... And that is, that if you are not totally genuine, then trying to build a trusting relationship for your own motives is a very high risk strategy. Human beings are highly sensitive to the almost imperceptible clues that give a disingenuous person away. If you're spotted, then the relationship is pretty much ruined. And if you're caught out a little way down the line, because they trusted you initially - you risk losing your reputation and credibility not only with that person, but with many others in their network.

My advice is therefore not to be tempted to learn a whole battery of tricks and techniques, but to examine your own motives and to give some real consideration for the needs and interests of the other party. Only when your heart is genuinely aligned with the needs and interests of the other person instead of just your own, will you be able to communicate authentically, and in a way which will create genuine and valuable trust and rapport.

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