In 1973, a study was published in the journal Science (riveting title) by psychologist David Rosenhan that tried to answer a simple question: ‘if sanity and insanity exist how will we know’?
Eight totally sane people were recruited and secretly admitted to various hospitals across the country. ‘Sane’ meaning “people who [did] not have, and [had] never suffered, symptoms of serious psychiatric disorders”.
As the premise went, if the staff could detect their ‘sanity’, that would suggest we could distinguish the sane from the insane.
If not, then the support of traditional ideas regarding psychiatric diagnosis could be challenged.
So what happened?
Long story short (and I recommend reading the whole study because it’s good), throughout the experiment none of the subjects were identified by attendants, nurses, psychiatrist, physicians or psychologists as being “sane”.
However, the legitimately institutionalized patients frequently raised suspicions after interacting with them in the environment.
”You’re not crazy. You’re a journalist or a professor [referring to the continual note-taking]. You’re checking up on the hospital”, some patients claimed.
As the saying goes, “it takes one to know one”.
Strangely enough, this experiment offers some good insights for how we can approach earning the trust of customers, clients and/or communities.
Reason being: people can easily see through insincere intentions as Rosenhaun’s study demonstrates.
I like to think I’ve built trusting relationships with friends, colleagues and clients in the past. I could always do a lot better, though. We all can.
Here are a few ways that I’ve found tend to work pretty well.
The first step in earning trust is being you; the totally transparent version of yourself.
To be transparent, you’ve got to be comfortable with who you are — as an individual or an organization.
Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why and master of inspirational keynote presentations says that “we are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us”.
I try to be as transparent as possible with people. And it allows people to be feel more comfortable being transparent with you, too.
Articulating your beliefs, not just what you can offer or what you’ve accomplished, goes a long way towards earning trust.
Your actions should simply be a reflection of them.
Don’t Be Too Quick to Label
We’ve learned that we have a natural ability to make remarkably accurate judgments of people in a split second.
In one experiment conducted in 2005, research showed that elections could be predicted solely on the basis of candidate photos.
When they asked people to look at pairs of black and white portraits showing candidates for the U.S. Senate — the winning candidate and the losing one — the individual who was judged as more competent ended up winning the election over two-thirds of the time.
They were able to make these judgments after seeing the photos for only 2 seconds. Now we should absolutely take advantage of those instinctual abilities. They can be really useful.
Here’s the catch, though. Predicting who will win the election based on who looks more competent doesn’t mean that they actually are more competent.
We should look to gather more information about people before labeling them or even agreeing to do business. The more information you can gather before making that call, the more likely you are to forn an ingenuous relationship.
Genuinely Get to Know One Another
It can be hard to truly get to know your audience. It’s easy to assume things about them based on general experience. How they found you, what they’re interested in, etc.
On episode 11 of StartUp, a podcast documenting the journey of starting a business, titled, “Know Your Customer”, host Alex Blumberg realizes that his audience is far more diversified than he had imagined.
He finds this out by picking up the phone, calling them and having conversations.
And yes, for a larger company, putting together a plan for ringing all your customers to check in on them would be tricky and difficult.
But there’s a saying that goes, “A friend is long sought, hardly found, and with difficulty kept”.
It’s a pretty simple concept that often goes undone in our increasingly transnational society.
But if you want to people in a community to trust you, let alone get them to buy your stuff, it helps to be a part of that community.
That means getting involved, engaging and listening to them, too.
How do you build trust with your customers, communities and clients? Tell me about it on Twitter @bgtrotter.
Thanks for reading! If you got any value from this, it would mean a lot to me if you shared it with someone else. Pay it forward. That’s how we all got here after all!
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