Connection as a Tool to Build Trust

by Becky Lemon, 2/14/2022

The magic that connection creates is far-reaching.  Constantly achieving it satisfies our basic, instinctual human need for belonging and safety, making it easier for us to show up as our authentic selves and spend our energy building healthy relationships with one another.  

For teams it’s important to understand that trust, a cornerstone of any culture where people are engaged and thriving, cannot exist without it.  

What is trust?

We share some common beliefs about trust that on some level are all true:

  • We can sense it when we have it (we can also tell when it’s absent)
  • It’s more difficult to create it than it is to destroy it

Trust is something that often feels ethereal and intangible, which enforces the myth that we have little power to create it, affect the quality of it, or restore it.  We can adopt a definition of trust, along with a recipe for mixing its ingredients, that transforms it into something objective that we can influence and have agency in.  

At Vestalia, we’ve taken cues from Charles Feltman, the author of  “The Thin Book of Trust; An Essential Primer for Building Trust at Work” to make meaning of trust.  

He defines trust as “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.” 

He further identifies four distinctions within trust that, depending on how much of it you’re feeling within yourself and about others, determines where you’re at on the continuum between trust and distrust.  The following is taken from the book:

Sincerityis the assessment that you are honest, that you say what you mean and mean what you say; you can be believed and taken seriously.  It also means when you express an opinion it is valid, useful, and is backed up by sound thinking and evidence.  Finally, it means you will align with your words.  

Reliabilityis the assessment that you meet the commitments you make, that you keep your promises

Competence* – is the assessment that you have the ability to do what you are doing or propose to do.  In the workplace this usually means the other person believes you have the requisite capacity, skill, knowledge, and resources to do a particular task or job

Care – is the assessment that you have the other person’s interests in mind as well as your own when you make decisions and take actions.  Of the four assessments of trustworthiness, care is in some ways the most important for building lasting trust.  When people believe you are only concerned with your self-interest and don’t consider their interests as well, they may trust your sincerity, reliability, and competence, but they will tend to limit their trust of you to specific situations or transactions.  On the other hand, when people believe you hold their interest in mind, they will extend their trust more broadly to you.  

*over the years at Vestalia, we’ve called this distinction “capability,” and often use it in place of the word competence

At Vestalia Hospitality, we use these four distinctions to assess why trust is present or missing, and as a guide to inform new behaviors we’ll need to engage in or invite others to engage in to create, strengthen, or restore trust.  

When leaders recognize others and establish meaningful connection with them, they are signaling the fourth distinction: care.  I care about you, and I care about sharing myself with you.  It sets up a mutual vulnerability loop that increases a shared sense of belonging, so there is ample space for sincerity, reliability, and competence to be noticed.  It creates an environment of compassion and psychological safety that allows each individual to show up authentically and take the kind of risks that result in growth and learning. 

Trust can be built quickly and slowly, in big and small gestures. How can you use the power of connection to increase it between you and others, and help a team of people grow it amongst themselves?

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