It takes a lot to earn somebody’s trust, and it’s not something you can simply do with the wave of a wand. The hardest thing about it is that it is, well, hard: it means you have to invest the time, keep your word, and care about the other person and those things that matter most to them.
Ultimately, creating trust requires you to, in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Be, and not seem.” That means that your actions have to come from a place of sincerity.
However, there are certain things you can do to build trust more quickly, and you can integrate them into almost any conversation. These are subtle psychological strategies that can help other people feel more at ease around you and more prepared to trust you.
You’ll still, of course, have to do the work of earning that trust. But these tips should make that journey a more productive and enjoyable one for both you and the other person!
1. Reflect everything backYou can often tell when two people are comfortable in each others’ company by observing their nonverbal signals. They’ll subconsciously mirror each other's body language, from the stance they assume to the gestures they make.
This psychological phenomenon is called “mirroring,” and it’s a powerful concept that you can use whenever you want to make the other person feel more comfortable and at ease around you. While mirroring naturally happens when two people are in sync, you can encourage that same feeling of closeness by consciously reflecting the other person’s physical cues back at them.
The idea is simple. Observe what your conversation partner is doing with their hands, with their feet, with their posture. Then simply copy that. Are they facing you with one foot pointing slightly outwards? Mirror that stance. Are they leaning into the conversation with both elbows on the table? Do the same.
This may feel strange at first, but it’s remarkably powerful: try it and watch as the other person appears to visibly relax in your presence!
2. Invoke social proof
Knowing that other people have trusted you in the past makes it easier for new people to trust you in the future. This is based on the concept of social proof.
During a conversation, invoking social proof can be as simple as listening to a prospective client’s request and referring—very lightly—to a time you helped another client with a very similar scenario.
This can reassure the other person that you’ve dealt with similar situations in the past, and that you can successfully do it again. You don’t need to say very much. Try something like this: “Ah, I helped another client with something very similar and here’s what we learned about that type of deal. It’s an insight that might just help you, too."
But a word of caution: don’t use this as an opportunity to show off—use it as an opportunity to help. In other words, if a past scenario contains valuable insights that could help this person, share it. If it doesn’t, leave it out.
3. Be generousBe ready to give without keeping score. The person you’re speaking with may end up being a client or they may not. They could go with a competing broker, or they could come back to you years down the road when you’re least expecting it. It really doesn’t matter, because you’re going to treat them not as a prospective “win” but simply as a human.
Here’s what that means. Do you have information they’d benefit from? Pass it along. Got a contact that could help them with the stickier parts of a major deal? Share it. Think another broker might serve them better? Say so. Help others whether they’re your clients or not, and forget about it almost as soon as you do it.
There’s no point in keeping score. This is an area where you simply have to take a leap of faith and trust that the good you do will come back to you several times over. We know there are brokers out there who’ll back us up on this one (and if you’re reading this, we’d love to hear from you in the comments!).
4. Listen beyond the pause
We all think we’re good listeners. But if that’s the case, then why do so many people complain about not being heard? Could it be because what we think counts as “listening” is actually just “hearing”?
One of the keys to building trust with a prospect or client is showing that you have truly listened to them, that you have heard what matters to them, and that you are willing to engage with them based on what you’ve heard (not on the sales pitch you’ve prepped).
A lot of people make the mistake of listening a little — just enough to know what to say next. But if you want to build trust, you’re going to have to listen beyond what you’re accustomed to. That means you’ll have to wait for that pause in conversation and not jump in with your opinion or your sales pitch.
Instead, train yourself to wait that extra beat or two more and you’ll be amazed at how much people are willing to tell you and how much they’ll open up. When they do so, just listen. And when they’ve truly said all they want to say, you can respond in a way that’s truly relevant.
They’ll know the difference, and so will you.