So what do we mean by trust?  Good news!  If you have been building relationships using the skills mentioned in the last blog then you are most of the way there in establishing trust with someone.


According to Dr. Ralph Colby of the University of Minnesota there are 4 attributes that people assess to determine whether they can trust someone.  I have added a fifth based on my experience.

Reliability: saying what you will do and doing what you will say.  Ensuring that your behavior is predictable (that does not necessarily mean that it is consistent.)  Demonstrating that you have their back.
Openness – willingness to accept feedback and to share your thinking.  The ability to be vulnerable, to ask for help.
Acceptance – being non-judgmental and accepting others for who they are.
Straighforwardness – being direct, speaking and acting without obfuscation.
Judgement – making the right calls in “battlefield conditions”.  In other words when the pressure is on.

While it takes time to build trust with others (and trust can be destroyed in a second through violation of one of these attributes), it can be gained faster using the final skill of relationship building – empathy.


The importance of empathy as a critical aspect of relationship-building has been consistently identified by academics and borne out in practice.   Empathy is the ability to sense, feel and understand the emotions, feelings, hopes, dreams, desires, and fears of others.  Others will be open to be influenced by you once they feel they have been fully heard and understood by you. Part of empathy is being able to understand the issues and concerns that lie behind another’s feelings.  You don’t have to agree with them, but you do need to make the effort to understand where they are coming from and what their ultimate goals are.  Empathy is more than just active listening, although this is a necessary but not sufficient skill to master.  Thomas Friedman , New York Times columnist and author said, “It’s not what you hear by listening that’s important; it’s what you say by listening that’s important.”

Daniel Goleman (currently co-director of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations at Rutgers University) states that empathy is made up of understanding others, developing others, leveraging diversity, reading the political and social currents in an organization, and anticipating, recognizing, and meeting needs.   In other words it is not just caring and showing interest in others success it is also the ability to demonstrate that you value their perceptions and what they are experiencing.  Without the demonstration of empathy it is much more difficult to influence someone else.

Your emotional intelligence plays a big role in how well you influence.  Goleman describes emotional intelligence as our potential for learning skills based on self-awareness, motivation, self-regulation, empathy, and adeptness in relationships.  Empathy, or reading feelings, and social skills, or handling feelings, are at the heart of getting others to respond in a certain way.  Having a high emotional intelligence, or having a high potential for learning how to handle people, can help you understand which tactics to use in which situation and with which type of person.  Using what you intuitively know about human nature will help you be able to read people and understanding automatic behavior patterns will help you to understand what someone is likely to do in any given situation.  For example, when you smile at a person, they will feel compelled to smile back.  Furthermore, according to Goleman, due to a feeling of emotional attunement, if someone returns your smile, they will also mirror your emotions, because we feel what others feel by mimicking their facial expressions and body language.  Because people depend on shortcuts, or doing what has worked before, and rely on stereotypes, knowing automatic behavior patterns helps you to sense or anticipate your audience’s reactions.  The ability to read voice, facial expressions, and other non-verbal cues is very helpful.  For example, it would be helpful to know that the word “because” triggers an automatic response, therefore your request is more compelling if you include that word.  Emotional intelligence and attunement is an especially important skill for likeability.  You have to be able to match their speaking and listening pace and pay attention to their body language.  Pacing, which is matching their posture, gestures, voice tone, and breathing rhythm, will also help create a stronger relationship more quickly.

All of these relationship building skills are necessary but not sufficient to achieve influence.  Reducing the task tension is critical to ensure that the influence target takes action.