Build Trust Through Conversational Intelligence

Build Trust

By Judith E. Glaser |
Published: December 27, 2013

FEAR SOMEHOW TOUCHES almost every aspect of our lives. It is woven invisibly into the fabric of our existence and often sets into motion a chain of reactions and circumstances that affect the way we think and our behavior, for better or worse, with others.

As leaders we need to ensure that fear does not consume our firms and degrade the performance of our partners. Especially in small firms – where every interaction and ripple effect on the ‘productivity of a culture’ – being able to set the stage for trusting relationships enables you to get in front of the fear-curve and shape your culture for higher levels of success.

WHY is this important?

Neuroscientists are revealing – through the use of fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) that when we are afraid, our brain goes into a state of distrust; we close down and move into protect behavior. We are not open to sharing and we are not open to learning. Instead, we become attached to our own beliefs and ideas and are not open to have healthy conversations about what’s really on our minds.

Firms grow when people are open to ‘share and discover’ from each other. Learning what is working and what is not, is the lifeblood of all organizations, especially small firms, where having open, healthy, candid and caring relationships is the essence for sustaining not only strong internal relationships but also strong relationship with clients.

HOW to Reduce Fear and Build Trust at Work?

The key to reducing fear at work is to eliminate mixed messages— the catalytic driver of fear—through direct and clear communication. WE-centric leaders lift people out of fear, frustration, and anger, the emotions that cause people to disengage from each other.

When people are uncertain of how they are feeling, when they feel disconnected they become reactive, project their anxiety onto others, create more fear, blame others for what is missing in their lives, reject first to avoid being rejected, and disengage. Conversationally Intelligence leaders create a culture that enables colleagues to feel connected, involved in living common values and vision, and trusted. When colleagues feel trusted, they work in concert, they learn from each other, develop higher-level skills and wisdom, meet performance goals, and turn breakdowns into breakthroughs.

Manage Three Vital Dynamics:

What can YOU DO to Build Trust…

  • First, put your ego behind you— what matters is what “we can do together” not what “I” can do.
  • Second, learn to manage your own reactions—bullying, intimidating, and micromanaging don’t get results or inspire others to higher performance.
  • Third, and most importantly, let go of the past; focus on the challenges facing you and build healthy, mutually beneficial, trusting relationships.

Mastering these three dynamics will change everything. Your ability to set the stage for a trusting environment will dramatically increase, and your ability to lead will increase exponentially. Plus you will enhance your ability to create inspiring, healthy trusting environments where people work together for mutual gain, growth, and understanding.

What Can You Do With OTHERS?

Our level of trust can be changed, by practicing Conversational Intelligence™. C-IQ has three levels of conversational dynamics that you can master. You can elevate trust with others in your firms by changing the quality of your conversations. When you do, you reduce the ‘mixed messages’ and elevate clarity about relationships and the result will be profound. Your goal is to practice moving into Level III with others…

Conversational Intelligence & the Neuroscience of Trust

Level I:  Transactional Conversations

Conversations that are mostly “telling people what to do” trigger fear and resistance. You may think you are communicating but you are not. You are trigger the lower brain and  people  are feeling you have an agenda, not their best interest at heart.

Level II: Positional

Conversations that are mostly “advocating your point of view” with low levels of listening, are also prone to create distrust. If you are selling your ideas and advocating your position, you also are sending non-verbal signals that your goal is to ‘win at all cost.’ Also signaling the brain to ‘distrust your motives.’

Conversations that are mostly “advocating your point of view” with low levels of listening, are also prone to create distrust. If you are selling your ideas and advocating your position, you also are sending non-verbal signals that your goal is to ‘win at all cost.’ Also signaling the brain to ‘distrust your motives.’

Level III: Transformational

Conversations that are mostly “sharing and discovering” where you are really interested in others thoughts and ideas, and are open to influence, are the highest levels of conversational dynamics. Listening is high, and you are communicating with both caring and candor, which sends signals of trust to those with whom you are communicating.

Here are some Conversational Intelligence™ Neuro-tips to remember:

Conversational Intelligence™ Neuro-tip #1: Trust and Distrust

Distrust activates the fear-networks in the brain – spewing a hormone call cortisol, which closes down conversations. Trust activates the trust-networks and also activates oxytocin, which facilitates conversations.

Conversational Intelligence™ Neuro-tip #2: Conversational Triggers

Conversations trigger physical and emotional changes in our brains and bodies through altering the amounts of two of the most powerful hormones that affect social interaction: oxytocin, which enables bonding and collaboration, and testosterone, which enables our aggressive behaviors.

As you weave, practice moving into Level III with others, you will find the quality of your conversations going, up, the wisdom that emerges from your conversations elevating and the feeling of ‘we’re all in this together’ rippling into everything you do – especially how you work with your clients.

“To get to the next level of greatness depends on the quality of the culture, which depends o the quality of relationships, which depends on the quality of conversations. Everything happens through conversations!” – Judith E. Glaser

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To Boost Innovation, Reboot Your Conversations


By Judith E. Glaser |
Published: December 18, 2013


You might not realize it, but a simple question such as, “How could you say that?” or “What were you thinking?” can stop creativity in its tracks. Such phrases activate people’s fear networks. Blood rushes to their primitive brain, designed for protection, and cortisol (a fear hormone) spreads, activating their ability to protect themselves from harm. Suddenly, and without realizing it, colleagues switch their innovation lights to “off.”

Thanks to advances in neuroscience and fMRI technology, we know that every conversation has a physiological impact. As we converse, neurochemicals are released in our brains almost instantly making us feel either good or bad. Feel-good conversations keep the blood flowing, the energy pumping, and light up our ability to see the world in new ways.

As the New Year approaches, you’ll want to ensure that your team is has the flexibility to gain access to new patterns of thinking. To grow and develop, you’ll require a culture of trust and positivity. To get you there, we’ve outlined three of the main ingredients you’ll need to create quality conversations in any environment.

Step 1: Encourage candor and trust.
Why it’s important: When we enable straight talk, candor and open conversations (without repercussions and fear of punishment), these norms create a mind shift that activates the mental fireworks for innovation. Employees need to trust that their ideas will be heard—and that they will get support, attention and proper vetting once the ideas are put on the table.
Your action plan: Find ways for staffers to talk more and with more people. Maybe it’s a regular lunch or a multi-purpose space where staffers can get coffee or meet. Bumping into one another to chat can help build engagement and understanding that underpins efficient communication and understanding.

Looking to build trust? Ask yourself…
  • What do people in our company need to know but don’t?
  • What three things should I communicate on a regular basis but don’t?
  • What would someone at your company never say, ask or do? Would those unwritten codes or norms inhibit candid conversations or even change?
  • What can I do as a leader to create trust?

Step 2: Eliminate politics
Why it’s important: Unwritten codes that signal, “you can’t say this,” or “you can’t do that” tell people not to change the status quo. Conversations cover the lowest common denominator and people stop innovating.
Your action plan: Reboot your office culture. Only daily practice can reaffirm concepts like “every idea counts” or healthy challenges to ideas. Make time to take input from outside your usual circle and remove the word “can’t” from your own vocabulary as an example to your team. When people know the canvas is blank and politics are not in play, they’ll be more open to take risks and to test out novel thinking.

Step 3: Promote recognition
Why it’s important: Too often employees have great ideas and no one listens. Ideas are expressed, but no one validates them or acknowledges them. There is an instinctive fear that voices will not be heard, and ideas will be pushed under the rug or their importance minimized.
Your action plan: First off, you can stop your own hour-long monologues during meetings and give staffers a chance to join a dialogue. You can then start forming small teams to challenge staffers to generate and implement new ideas, possibly for new projects or even ways to improve workflow or efficiency. Lastly, you should identify the staffers with whom you interact the least. Simple hallway hellos in the morning can make them feel comfortable speaking up and increase your circle of influence.

Quality of Conversations: Shaping the Conversational Environment


By Judith E. Glaser |
Published: December 17, 2013

Every conversation has an impact. You may not see it at first. It takes place inside of us at the speed of .07 seconds. It takes place at the cellular level.  Cells talk with each other, and if a conversation feels bad—our fear networks are activated instantly. Blood rushes to our primitive brain, which is designed for protection. Cortisol (a fear hormone) is spray-painted everywhere, and our ability to protect ourselves from harm is turned on instantly.

Did you ever notice that, during a meeting or brainstorming session, one comment from a powerful voice can stop the innovation process?

Simple comments such as, “how could you think that,” or “what where you thinking” activate our fear network and without realizing it, colleagues can inadvertently and unintentionally turn the “innovation lights out”.

The quality of conversations does matter. Quality conversations establish the environments and readiness to support innovation.

Pathways to Success:

Step 1: Encourage Candor and Trust 

Straight talk, candor and open conversations (without repercussions and fear of punishment) are the operating norm for innovative conversations. Employees need to trust that their ideas will be heard—and that they will get support, attention and proper vetting once the ideas are put on the table. Shaping the quality of the conversational environment enables employees to speak up, and share their innovative thinking.

Step 2:  Eliminate Politics

Organizations have unwritten codes that signal “you can’t say this,” or “you can’t do that”.  These codes tell people they are unsafe to challenge the status quo. People are afraid to speak up. Conversations go to the lowest common denominator—people stop innovating.

However, when shaping the quality of the conversational environment for safety, employees trust they will get quality feedback on their ideas, and they speak up.

Step 3: Promote Recognition

Too often employees have great ideas, and no one listens. When ideas are expressed, no one validates them or acknowledges them. There is an instinctive fear in many of us that our voices will not be heard, and our ideas will be pushed under the rug or their importance minimized.

Shaping the quality of the conversational environment with conversational norms that enable employees to be celebrated for having great ideas changes the amount of great ideas that show up. When employees can trust that they will get the recognition from the top for being “idea catalysts”, management will find that people have a lot to say!

Ask Yourself…

  • What does the organization need to know but does not because people are afraid to speak up?
  • What are you doing to create trusting, non-toxic work environments?
  • What are the unwritten codes or norms that are at play that may be inhibiting open, candid, trusting conversations?
  • What can you do as a leader to create trust?

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Use Your Brain to Build Better Relationships at Work


By Alexandra Levit |
Published: December 12, 2013

According to Judith Glaser, the CEO of Benchmark Communications and the author of the new book, Conversation Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results, the key to success in life and in work is to prime your brain for trust, mutual respect, and partnership. Based on advances made in the neuroscience field over the last decade, Glaser’s framework involves understanding what kind of conversations trigger the lower, more primitive brain, and what kind activate higher-level intelligences such as integrity, empathy, and good judgment.

I asked Glaser for a few examples of how neuroscience affects the way we handle challenging workplace relationships and how we can leverage our brain’s natural tendencies to better these relationships, and here were her top tips.

Our Brains Are Designed to Be Social

The need to belong is more powerful than the need for safety. Rejection activates our fear networks and increases the levels of cortisol, which move us into protect behavior. Focus on being inclusive and using physical and verbal touch in order to reduce the level of cortisol and increase the level of oxytocin, which promotes bonding.

Appreciation Reshapes Neural Networks

Appreciation activates a large framework of neurons that are part of the functions of sight, hearing, and perspective. It enables us to see more broadly and think bigger. Better your relationships by focusing on appreciating others’ perspectives even if you don’t agree.

Activate the Mirror Neuron

Empathy activates the mirror neuron network located in the prefrontal cortex, or the Executive Brain. When we are mirroring each other, we are capable of seeing and experiencing the world through each other’s eyes. This elevates the level of openness, and we become more comfortable sharing what’s really on our minds.

Uncertainty Destabilizes the Brain

When we are uncertain, our sense of reality is disturbed. This makes us question the personal beliefs that anchor us safely in our conversations and relationships. We may even start to distrust ourselves. Focus on aligning your beliefs with others. Rather than fighting to prove you are right, create safe conversational spaces to get grounded again.

We Move Toward Pleasure and Away from Pain

Humans are hardwired for protection. Our brains instantly respond to signals of threat and we move away to protect ourselves. Conversations that threaten us cause us to retreat, resist, and recoil from engagement. Focus on making it safe to talk with you. Notice when you are sending threatening signals and refocus, redirect, and reframe instead.

When Both Players Have to Win, Both Lose

When we win, we receive a neurochemical cocktail that rewards our brain and makes us feel wonderful, powerful and important. As a result, we get addicted to being right. However, realize that the more you insist on being right, the more resistance you will create in others. You will create a pattern in which people are less likely to listen to and trust you in the future.

Conversations Are Warm or Cold

Our brains sense warm and cold as signals for opening up or closing down. Research shows that when we bring warmth into our conversations, we elevate trust instantly. When we judge others (i.e. coldness), we instantly trigger distrust. Focus on noticing how you communicate through the senses of warm and cold in your conversations. Prime the conversational space for warmth and connection and notice how your relationships change for the better!


Shifting to Transformational Conversation For Best Results


By Bud Bilanich |
Published: December 10, 2013

A couple of things happened on October 1 this year that I would like to discuss. First, the U.S. government shutdown due to a budget impasse over the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Second, a book called Conversational Intelligence was released and became an instant bestseller on Amazon.

No matter which side of the ACA debate you’re on, you can probably agree there wasn’t much intelligent conversation going on in Washington in late September and early October. Conversational Intelligence author, Dr. Judith Glaser, explains why.

Dr. Glaser suggests that there are three types of conversations: Transactional, in which two parties share information; persuasive, in which one or both parties attempt to bring the other to their point of view; and transformational, in which both parties co-create solutions into thorny problems.

If you watched the ACA drama unfold, it was clear that almost everyone involved was operating in the persuasive mode, which according to the neuroscience behind Conversational Intelligence triggers the lower, more primitive brain—the amygdala, which is prone to distrust and paranoia. You saw how well that worked out.

Read the full article here: