How do you react when someone unexpectedly cuts you off when you’re driving?
Do you pause and think about why this happened? Perhaps the driver didn’t see you or had some emergency. Or, do you react emotionally, instantly uttering some obscenity?
For most of us, option B prevails, because our brain’s first reaction to any stimuli is always an emotional one; and, we’ve evolved to react more strongly to negative inputs than to positive ones. So, when we’re surprised by a perceived threat, our instinctive response is to feel emotionally violated and to defend ourselves – even against some anonymous fellow traveler.
This involuntary impulse challenges every leader who is resolving a conflict, driving a change initiative, or seeking to persuade, because trust can be compromised by emotional reactions if a leader doesn’t respond appropriately.
Knowing that the core of all enduring relationships is trust, and that these trusting relationships are vital to their success, leaders strive to build and preserve them with all stakeholders. Part of preserving that trust is anticipating reactions, particularly negative ones.
People remember what their leaders say or do because of how those words or actions make them feel. This emotional reaction is the normal and natural first step towards the required logical analysis of a challenging issue. So, anticipate it, and enable some sharing of emotion before guiding the dialogue to the assessment of facts. Defensiveness will be reduced and the discussion will be more productive.
Trust thrives when people feel respected and appreciated, when they sense integrity, sincerity and care. It is sabotaged by cynicism, narcissism, apathy or conflict which breed frustration, anger, resentment, and fear. Leaders succeed by preserving trust.
How are you preserving trust?