4 tips to create trust-building, barrier-smashing communication

Whether it’s an internal or external effort, be upfront about your intentions. Express genuine care and concern, and offer ‘social proof’ of your good work.


How many different messages and channels did you sift through this morning?

Today, we’re inundated with an endless deluge of communication. To cope with the messaging onslaught, we swiftly choose which information to acknowledge and which to ignore. We have become ruthless information sifters.

Personally, this keen skepticism is a helpful adaptation, though it presents a challenge for communicators. How do you overcome the barriers we’ve built up around ourselves? How do you build trust in this ultra-skeptical era?

Communicators must be intentional and strategic to convey messages effectively. Here are four guidelines to help you do so:

1. Be clear about your intentions. Don’t beat around the bush nor waste people’s time with excess (or misleading) information. What is it you want to convey? Get straight to it.

This applies to internal and external communication. Sharing your intentions from the outset of a post, project, page, piece or conversation shows transparency. You cannot build trust if people suspect you have ulterior motives. Whether you’re trying to connect with colleagues or customers, using a communication bait-and-switch undermines your efforts to establish meaningful connections.

Upfront, clear intentions create a culture of trust, understanding and authenticity. Intention is the foundation that all collaborative work and partnerships are built on.

Unfortunately, many leaders forget that good intentions are useless unless you keep your promises—every single time.

2. Tell people exactly what will happen next. An editor we worked with offered wise advice for building trust on the web. Before you ask anybody to click a button or submit a form on your website, tell them exactly what’s going to happen next.

On our company’s services page, the contact form at the bottom clearly states, “We’ll respond within 48 hours with pricing and availability.”

As you review your websites, email campaigns and social media profiles, add in reassurances and clarifications that explain to users what will happen if they click.

This applies to internal audiences, too. If you have an intranet, let your people know what to expect if they proceed. Give people a reason to click without hesitation.

3. Offer social proof. If somebody has already invested their trust in you, don’t be afraid to share their sentiments. Trust can be contagious.

Find advocates and fans who are willing to endorse you. Post testimonials, videos, case studies and success stories that highlight your good work. Just make sure you get genuine, objective feedback. You can’t fake integrity.

4. Express genuine care and concern in every interaction. Business communication is often distant and self-centered. Companies love to tout vague strengths, qualities and virtues, but tooting one’s own horn is not an effective way to build trust.

Whether you’re dealing with clients or co-workers, prioritize showing genuine, personalized concern. People want to be treated with respect, clarity and fairness. Your core values are meaningless unless they make your communications more compassionate, empathetic and caring.

To build trust internally, be curious about your employees. Ask substantive questions that require thoughtful responses. Inquisitive questions are a key that can unlock the door to a culture of trust, which lays a solid foundation for any kind of company.

Will Wise and Chad Littlefield are co-founders of We!. Leaders call them when there is a lack of trust getting in the way of results.

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