How our Brains Decide when to Trust

Employees in high-trust companies are more productive, are more satisfied with their jobs, put in greater discretionary effort, are less likely to search for new jobs, and even are healthier than those working in low-trust companies. Businesses that build trust among their customers are rewarded with greater loyalty and higher sales. And negotiators who build trust with each other are more likely to find value-creating deals.

Human brains have two neurological idiosyncrasies that allow us to trust and collaborate with people outside our immediate social group.

At work the trust game has an additional factor, which is the example set by leaders. As social creatures, we naturally follow leaders and model our behavior on theirs. The influence they have means they can easily sabotage trust in two key ways: by stoking fear and wielding dominance.

Fear is a great motivator in the short term but a poor one in the long term. Dominant behavior, on the other hand, literally hurts the people who are targeted. The solution? Resist impulsive actions by taking a breath and considering the implications of what you are about to say or do.

Once you have a clear sense of how trust operates in your organization, and how much of it you have, you can work on increasing it. Among the brain’s most effective tools for doing so is habit building. Habits, which are behaviors associated with the activation of the brain’s default pathways, help the brain save energy. It takes at least 90 days to change a habit, but then the new habit becomes the brain’s default response. By increasing trust between you and your colleagues, you can also build the habits that let you quickly establish trust with clients. These habits will make your team more productive and signal your trustworthiness to clients, a neurologic win-win.

To read the full HBR article, please click here.

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