February 10th, 2016


This is one of a series of posts on enemies of trust at work – behaviors that can damage other peoples’ trust in you. Knowing the enemies you face can help you avoid them. This material is based on the trust building framework described in The Thin Book of Trust: An essential primer for building trust at work by Charles Feltman.

Enemy: Unintentionally contradicting yourself. Saying something to one person that may appear to contradict what you’ve said to another. There are four common reasons for this: 1) you may not see any obvious contradiction between what you say to two different people, but they do; 2) you may not be able to say everything to one person that you can to another for some reason; 3) something changes between the time you talk to one person and the other; 4) your desire to please people by agreeing with them or telling them what they want to hear is stronger than your desire to be completely honest.

Avoid this enemy by as much as possible using the same words when you talk about something to different people, especially if it’s something they see as important. It also helps if you understand those people well enough to know they may have different interpretations of the same thing so you can try to avoid this happening.

If you can’t give as much information about something to Bob as you can to Joan for some reason, let them both know this is the case and why.

If something changes between the time you talk to Joan and when you talk to Bob so that Bob gets different information, go back to Joan and make sure she is updated.

Finally, if you know you have a tendency to change what you say or how you say it to fit what you think different people want to hear, first understand that you are not alone. Lots of people do this to dome degree or another. But also know that even though people may feel good about you in the moment because you’re telling them what they want to hear, eventually they will realize you are changing your story from one person to another and will begin to distrust that you are sincere. So stop, take a breath, and focus on the person’s need to hear the true story.