Ten Conversational Habits of Trustworthy Professionals

Every time someone gives a referral, his or her own reputation is on the line. So why would anyone risk referring a professional they don’t completely trust? They wouldn’t.

They likely wouldn’t do business themselves with someone they didn’t trust, either. No one wants to risk the embarrassment and financial loss of being taken for a ride.

Building trust doesn’t happen by chance or luck. Here’s how trustworthy people do it every time they have a conversation.

1. They share something personal.

Did you ever wonder why company’s put executive bios on their websites, hire spokespeople, or feature their CEOs in ads? It humanizes their firms. People feel closer to them, which breeds trust.

A little personal tidbit has the same effect.

Opening up to the other person a little bit also signals that you trust them. This is important, because trust is a two-way street. Why should anyone trust someone who doesn’t trust them?

Just be careful not to get too personal. You don’t want to come across as unprofessional or make the other person to feel uncomfortable.

2. They acknowledge negatives.

When you acknowledge a negative, even a minor one, you demonstrate that you’re honest and transparent. That makes all the positive things you have to say more credible.

Here are some examples.

“I know the upgrades are expensive, and just between you and me, they’re not all worth it. That being said…”“This house does need a lot of work. It’s not going to be easy or quick. However…”

“Now this plan does come with a little more risk.”

People know that nothing is perfect, so why leave it up to them to wonder what you’re hiding?

3. They listen as much as they speak.

Listening to what others have to say shows that you care about their comments, concerns, and questions. This helps them feel that you have their best interests at heart, not just your own.

If you find yourself doing most of the talking, try to find ways to involve the other person. Asking open-ended questions is one way to do this.

4. They use the word “you” more than “me.”

People believe and trust information when they understand how it relates to them. Tell people how your service is going to impact their lives. Paint a picture with your words, so that they can visualize themselves. Speak to their pain points, experiences, and motivations.

When you make others the focus of your conversation, you show that you’re not just interested in meeting your own needs.

5. They establish common ground.

We tend to trust people we are confortable with. And finding common ground is a great way to bond. During the course of conversation, keep an ear out for experiences, attitudes, and beliefs that you share.

Authenticity is a key element of trust, so be sure that whatever connection you make is genuine.

6. They are specific.

Specifics are more authoritative than generalizations, and therefore, more credible. Say you had two contractors you were considering hiring. One tells you the work will be done by mid-July. The other says it will be done by end of day on July 16. Based just on that, which would you believe?

Let’s continue with the contractor analogy. The first guy quotes $10,000 for the job. The second contractor quotes $10,469. Even though the second quote is higher, most people would question the first quote more. That’s because $10,000 seems random, while $10,469 is specific.

7. They use social proof.

People are often swayed by what others think and do. That’s why adding testimonials and reviews to websites are a best practice. They have been shown to increase conversations. And social proof isn’t just for websites.

You can use social proof in your conversations to build credibility and trust. For instance, if you talk about how many people have chosen a particular service you provide, the person you’re speaking with will probably assume the reason is because that service must be great.

It sounds logical, but it’s actually more powerful than that. Social proof provides a mental shortcut that can influence decisions almost immediately. The logic comes second as a way to justify those decisions.

8. They get the other person to agree early in the conversation.

The more you agree with someone, the more likely you are to trust what that person is saying. And the sooner that happens, the better, thanks to the halo effect. Subconsciously, the brain makes the connection that you were right about the other thing, so you’re probably right about this, too.

And the best part is, the contexts don’t even have to be related for this to work. Often you can do it at the same time you’re establishing common ground. For example, if you learn that you have children around the same age, you could ask, “Can you believe how much day care costs?”

9. They use plain language.

Jargon, buzzwords, and overly formal language kill credibility. They sound like prepared statements and sales pitches that you might not even believe yourself. They’re not authentic.

Instead, talk like a normal person. Use words and phrases the person you’re talking to would use. Say things in your own way. Don’t be afraid to let your personality show through. People trust that kind of straight talk, because it’s hard to fake.

10. They tell a story.

Lots of people like to throw out facts and figures to make a case, but stories are actually more effective. Here’s why:

First, statistics can be manipulated. If you try hard enough, you can find numbers to support any point. Second, and more importantly, stories put things in context in ways data can’t. People can relate to stories because they tap into emotions.

If you want, follow up with supporting facts, but let your story so the heavy lifting.

Obviously, it would be difficult to use all ten of these strategies in a single conversation. Focus on a few at a time and use them naturally. And do it consistently, because trust is earned.

Now it’s your turn. We want to know your favorite ways to build trust.