Trust: An Important Ingredient for Effective Communications

Touching the stone wall
Having worked lately with various groups of people on effective internal communications and  team building it struck me again how the trust factor remains of major importance for any successful intervention.

Not only trust and confidence in the capabilities of the facilitator but also trust in team members, collaborators and most and foremost trust in the participants themselves and in their own capabilities. Obviously, this trust has to be established and participants need to be ready to listen to their inner feelings and intuitions….this sounds like an easy exercise but as a matter of fact, for many it is the most difficult  – as the most unusual – part.

As we all know, it is not possible not to communicate: our non-verbal signs and behaviour already give clues to our counterpart about what is going on (even if this often happens unconsciously), before the conversation per se has started. Being aware of how your own body behaves and moves in space and how others might perceive this, is in fact a first step towards more self-awareness and from that to trust in your own abilities and capacities. Adding empathy, curiosity and openness to others, you will have a strong basis for building relationships of trust and thus effective communications and effective intercultural communications.

Are you willing to trust and be mindful about how your own body relates to external stimuli and how you and your actions are perceived by others?



Mindful Leadership and the influence of emotions on trust

Emotion: happyIn preparation of D. Goleman’s presence and presentation in Lausanne at the IMD later this week, I was reading some very interesting articles/research about emotions and their influence on trust.

As more and more leadership publications and organizational excellence discussions talk about emotions and how important these are for successful self-management, people-management and organizational functioning and well-being (for the company as a whole as well as for the people in it), I find their influence on trust highly important. Trust is indeed necessary for effective teamwork, functioning partnerships, management, social life etc. It really is the main ‘ingredient’ for making things happen, able to reduce the complexity that we are confronted at all times so that we can be together, work together, deal together in business matters and other things. Once lost, it is very difficult to re-build trust in whatever context.

Thanks to research conducted in the field of psychology and neuroscience we now slowly begin to better understand and value how our ‘brains’[1] function and why it is so important to listen to both of them. The idea, that certain emotions can influence trust is hence extremely interesting.

So far, I only knew of research identifying links between affective states (moods and emotions) and unrelated judgments[2] and not how specific emotions influence subsequent judgments. “Unlike moods, emotional states are typically shorter in duration (…)”[3] and they are more complex than moods. In their research, Jennifer Dunn and Maurice Schweitzer, found out the following correlation:

“Happiness and gratitude—emotions with positive valence—increase trust, and anger—an emotion with negative valence—decreases trust. Specifically, (…) emotions characterized by other-person control (anger and gratitude) and weak control appraisals (happiness) influence trust significantly more than emotions characterized by personal control (pride and guilt) or situational control (sadness). (…) Emotions do not influence trust when individuals are aware of the source of their emotions or when individuals are very familiar with the trustee.”

Applied to leadership, these findings are of great importance. As we have seen in one of my previous posts, certain mental qualities or attitudes, “(…) provide a rich soil in which the seeds of mindfulness can flourish: [4]

  1. Patience
  2. ‘Letting Go’
  3. Non-Judging
  4. Trust
  5. Generosity

To summarize: Under certain conditions, emotions such as happiness and gratitude thus increase trust whereas a key attitude for being able to plant the ‘seeds’ of mindfulness is also trust. If you thought that mindful leadership is out of your reach, well here’s a place to start!



[2] See Joseph P. Forgas for example

[3] Jennifer R. Dunn and Maurice E. Schweitzer:  “Feeling and Believing: The Influence of Emotion on Trust”, page 737

[4] Jon Kabat-Zinn: “Wherever you go, there you are”, New York 1994, p. 3.

Empathy and loving-kindness: what can it do for you?

Today I want to write about something I came across when learning to practice mindfulness which I thought was extremely strange and funny at the same time. I am sure that many of you will smile when you read this as you might have experienced the same.

I actually want to talk about the “loving-kindness meditation[1] and how it can impact us. The loving-kindness practice is actually an old Buddhist practice called “Metta Bhavana[2] which exists since over 2500 years. It is fairly easy to do as you simply need to direct ‘loving-kindness’ to yourself wishing you happiness, fulfillment, peace (as if you would give yourself a big hug) and then let the feeling envelope you in order to be subsequently able to wish the same to a good friend or dear person, then to a neutral person and finally to a difficult one, eventually opening up to all human beings. Really quite simple in theory but when I first had to do this, I actually found it quite ok to send these wishes to myself and my loved ones but neutral people and then people with whom I had difficult relationships proved to be really a challenge and even somewhat awkward. Funnily, afterwards, every time I saw the ‘neutral person’ or ‘difficult person’ again, I was kind of expecting something extraordinary to take place which of course never really happened… well, over time, as everything, it becomes easier with training and I actually found myself really wishing people happiness and even developing empathy towards persons I did not particularly like. Suddenly, I saw no apparent reason to dislike them anymore, which I thought was rather strange but actually a relief as it did not bother me any longer and I could focus my attention on something else.[3]

Empathy as we know is one major ingredient of building a trustful relationship with somebody else, be it at work or in private life. As soon as we are interested in another person’s life and issues, listening with attention and providing feedback will establish a solid foundation for any further interactions. Being a coach and a leader this truly is essential as without it, the basis of a relationship would be missing, hence the trust.

In summary, for me personally, the loving-kindness meditation is an excellent tool for training patience, receptivity, and appreciation/empathy. It helps me stay open-minded and non-judging, thus facilitates my work in a multicultural and fast paced environment.

You might want to try it out for yourself:

“May I be well”

“May I be happy”

“May I be free from suffering”[4]

[1] See for example this site for a good explanation of what this meditation is all about :

[2] See ‘Metta’ on Wikipedia :

[3] See also Charles A Francis’ site who has developed a variation of the loving-kindness meditation called ‘writing meditation’:

[4] Search Inside Yourself, Chade-Meng Tan, p.172.