When you buy your popcorn at the movies, you probably don’t have more than a fleeting thought about the concession clerk, which is why such a relationship is referred to as transactional. You hand over the cash, and the clerk hands over the popcorn. It’s a transaction, and you don’t have any real investment in that relationship.
But at work, you probably chit-chat with colleagues before beginning a work-related discussion. (“How was your weekend?” “Did you see the game?”)
“When you do that, you transform the relationship. You’re not quite ready to give the person your kidney, but you’re more receptive to the person and they in turn feel warmer toward you. You’re building a relationship through that non-task conversation. It’s more than transactional,” explains Maurice Schweitzer.
Schweitzer, author of “Friend & Foe” with Adam Galinsky, says that kind of conversation in the workplace may be more critical than many believe, because it helps establish trust. Without that trust, collaboration, productivity and success falter.
At the same time, knowing who to trust can be equally important. In their new book, the authors use science to explain how to best establish trust, such as:
- Building rapport. By asking about a person’s family or hobby, you let the person feel good about talking to you, and you show them that you’re taking the time to listen. “Some people find it hard to get outside themselves because they believe they are the most interesting thing,” Schweitzer says. “But when you ask someone to tell you about their goals and interests – and ask follow-up questions – it shows you’re paying attention.”
- Smiling more. Maybe you don’t feel like smiling when discussing losses in the 3rd quarter, but begin by talking about something that does make you genuinely smile, such as a favorite hobby or your child. Research shows that people who inspire the most trust are those who exhibit two distinct traits: warmth and competence. “We trust warm people because we know they care about us,” the authors write. “In contrast, cold people pose a potential threat to us. We trust competent people, because they are credible, effective and efficient.”
- Apologizing. It doesn’t really matter what the apology is for (“I’m sorry it’s raining,” “I’m sorry your flight was delayed”) because studies show that the words themselves project warmth. This increased warmth leads people to cooperate.
- Meeting in person. This shows you value the relationship, and helps build trust. Whether (read more here)