Trust—it’s a small word with a big meaning. It’s hard to gain, yet so easily broken. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, trust is the “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something.” You build trust by actively listening to others. The higher the trust level of the individuals/groups, the greater the retention.
How do we start? Realize that being truly listened to is a striking experience, partly because it is so rare. There is a difference between hearing a message and listening to it. Sound traveling to the ear is hearing. Listening is when the words are being processed and stored away.
Just because somebody hears you, doesn’t mean they are listening to you. When a person is totally with the speaker—genuinely immersed in every detail to understand the intent—they feel known and understood. This one act creates a sense of safety, security and expansion, and trust starts to take root.
Learning how to listen effectively is an ongoing process. Henry Kimsey-House, in his book, “Co-Active Coaching,” suggests listening consists of three levels: internal, focused and global. Here’s an explanation of each level:
Level I: Focusing on ourselves
We hear about a topic and think about how it relates to us. Sometimes people produce a few strong rebuttals to respond in case our position is challenged. In this scenario, all that matters is an individual’s own thoughts, values and ethics. For instance, two friends are discussing an election. One of them is praising a candidate. The second person is mentally rebuking every point being made. At this phase there is only on question: What does it mean to me? How much trust exists in a culture of leaders that promote Level I listening? Not much.
Level II: less self-centered
The focus is entirely on the speaker. Apart from the words, you take note of facial expressions, vocal pitch, and body language. These aspects are often more telling than the verbal message. Are they slouched over in defeat? Does the speaker’s voice tremble? Maybe their eyes are shining brightly, expressing emotion. Imagine a couple reminiscing over their children. While the wife is sharing a happy tale her husband is noticing a twinkle in her eye. He feels her contentment and peace.
Level III: Hones in on global listening
People who listen on this level rely on their physical senses and emotional sensibility. Intuition becomes a guide for receiving unobservable information. The focus isn’t on a single thing but instead, on everyone and the environment. Let’s say you walk into a room filled with people. Right away thick tension saturates the atmosphere. Instead of being upbeat, you take on a more cautious demeanor. Some people, you notice, are angry while others are on edge. This silent knowledge can be just as helpful as a spoken explanation. Use it to respond to a situation accordingly.
Trust in the business world means the potential for higher retention rates. People must have faith they have each others’ best interests at heart. Employees rely on their leaders to create and maintain a culture of trust, and the way to build this trust is by being skilled at active listening.