This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Conversational Intelligence" by Judith E. Glaser. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Did you lose someone’s trust at work? How do you regain that trust?

Losing someone’s trust is one of the hardest things imaginable, but it’s even harder to gain it back. In Conversational Intelligence, Judith Glaser explains how to regain the trust at work that you lost.

Continue reading to get back into someone’s good graces.

How to Use Conversational Intelligence to Reestablish Trust

To become an intelligent communicator, you should also learn how to regain trust when it’s been lost. Glaser says that if you find yourself or the other person becoming distrustful during a conversation, prevent further alienation by pausing the discussion. This puts a break on your amygdala’s fear reaction and the production of cortisol, so you don’t continue to take actions and draw conclusions from a place of fear and distrust. 

(Shortform note: In conversations that are becoming increasingly tense, one action you can take during a pause is to practice deep breathing. This has a physiological effect on you: It changes your blood pressure, thereby alerting your brain that it can relax. You could also view the situation through an optimist’s lens during a pause: See the benefits or humor in the situation, or think about how fun it will be to talk about it with friends later. When you do this, you’ll be more able to continue calmly with the conversation.)

However, if there’s been a more serious, long-term loss of trust, Glaser proposes using the following five steps to learn how to regain trust. These steps can be executed directly person-to-person or facilitated by a third party:

1. Be honest: Vocalize your fears to the other person. When you do this, you tell your brain that the person with whom you’re sharing your fears won’t harm you, de-escalating your fear response. It also makes clear to the other person what your fears are so they don’t misunderstand them.

(Shortform note: In No Rules Rules, Reed Hastings argues that being transparent in the way Glaser describes also helps companies as a whole function better: When CEOs are transparent with employees, employees have the knowledge they need to make better decisions.)

2. Forge a connection: Build a relationship with the other party by connecting with them meaningfully and letting them know you appreciate their qualities. This lets the other person know they can trust you.

(Shortform note: Humans are much more likely to like another person if they feel that other person likes them. What’s more, the compliments or kind words the other person pays us don’t even have to seem authentic or based in reality for us to still like them.) 

3. Take their perspective: Seek to understand how the other person sees the world. What is their version of reality? Be open with the other person, and listen to them carefully. 

4. Define success together: Define what success looks like for both parties rather than merely pursuing what success looks like to you. This creates a baseline of trust because you know you’re all moving toward a common goal. 

(Shortform note: What happens if, in steps 3 and 4, you can’t get on the same page with the other person? In such cases, it might be best to explore switching teams. If that’s not an option, you could actually ask the other person what they think you should do when you disagree. You might say something like: “I’m sensing our approaches might not be compatible. What do you think we should do now and when this happens in the future?” This might soften up the other person and get them thinking more flexibly.)

5. Reflect on your assumptions: Once you’ve performed the above steps, reflect more broadly about the assumptions you and others made that may have led to this loss of trust and how you can close the gap between assumptions and reality.

(Shortform note: It might even be helpful to keep a journal in which you describe incorrect assumptions and lessons you learned. This lets you track your personal growth, which has the additional benefit of giving you a confidence boost when you reread entries.)

How to Regain Trust That You Lost at Work

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Here's what you'll find in our full Conversational Intelligence summary:

  • The importance of conversations to human growth and success
  • How to deploy conversational intelligence and avoid dialogue-killing distrust
  • The five steps to regain trust if you've lost it

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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