Get Started Here

To begin the process, you may wish to download worksheets to record your thoughts and plans. Print out these sheets and use them as record and journal of your work.


You may also wish to scan the entire 9 steps by accessing the menu of pages on your left. Feel free to see how the process unfolds. Then come back here to begin your own application.

The first thing to do is identify the person with whom you would like to build trust. Sometimes this will be an easy choice because you can feel the tension in the relationship just by thinking about the person. In other cases, you may not feel a great deal of tension, but you sense there is a need to get moving because the person is new to you or the issue you want to share is a new one in the relationship.

The goal of reaching out is to bring truth in a way that also builds trust in the relationship. After all, truth and trust need each other. Truth, rawly stated and without trust as a context can damage a relationship. Trust without truth can be unreal. Are there limits and special cases on this formula? Of course! But, in general, the more people open up to share in an open, respectful way, the more trust can be built.

How much time will this take? The first time you use this process, it may take you a few hours to complete the steps. The first of these (through Step 5) are less time consuming than the exercises at Step 6 that apply multiple intelligences. You are encouraged to think of this method, especially at the beginning, as an investment -- much like reading a good book is an investment. Once you see and get the gist of how the process unfolds it can become quite natural -- literally the outcome of only a few minutes of thought.

Hey, how come you want to do this, anyway?

If you are considering this process, and want "to stick your toe in the water," you may want to first reflect on why you would like to build trust with the person you have selected. In other words, what's in it for you? This can be a particularly important question to answer if you feel you cannot yet trust the other person. While answering this question is not likely to allay all your fears or tell you exactly how to proceed, it can help you clarify and strengthen your motivation and your energy for change.

Here are some potential reasons why you might decide to build trust in an intentional way
• the logical benefits of trust: productive outcomes rather than the "waste," constraint, and inefficiency of mistrust; trust helps you think and solve problems; mistrust contaminates logic

• because trust is a natural way of being for you, allowing you to relate and bond as part of a community and play your part in the natural order of things

• because your exchanges and conversations, the very words you use and feedback you share are based on your levels of trust; the language of trust builds you up and gives you confidence; that of mistrust can hurt you to the core

• because trust represents a state of interpersonal respect, care, mutual influence, and openness for you rather than tension and conflict

• for the sense of inner meaning, self-acceptance, strength and personal transformation building trust-based relationships gives you

• because you experience trust and mistrust viscerally: mistrust and self-protection are exhausting; physically, trust simply feels a lot better to you

• because the effects of trust and mistrust are visible to you and others -- especially in the outcomes of your work

• for the joy and satisfaction trust brings -- a good relationship is a powerful harmony: real music to the human soul; mistrust is tuneless, atonal, disturbing, just noise

All of these reasons -- and many others -- are legitimate, making trust a uniquely human, individual affair. What are your reasons for wanting to build trust with the person you've identified?

You'll Need to Know

This 9-step process is an intra-personal AND behavioral approach. It frequently taps your own best wisdom to overcome the obstacles in your path.

This is different from approaches that attempt to offer expert advice about behaviors or techniques that come from some other place than your own mind and heart. Instead, the focus here, along with changed behaviors, is on insight -- literally seeing into yourself -- and congruence, the practice of following your own best instincts so that your behaviors are naturally in line with your values and deepest principles for living. Insight and congruence are a mainstay of grounded action.

There are other approaches that follow a more purely behavioral, technique-based path. The book, The Courageous Messenger, which I wrote with colleagues, Kathleen Ryan and George Orr, describes one of them. It is full of behavioral tips and pointers, right down to the specifics of "words to say." If that kind of approach is a better fit for you, or you would like to use it as a supplement to this process, you'll find it to be an excellent guide to speaking up, even in very challenging workplace circumstances.

What is often missing from behavioral methods, however, are the deeper aspects of self-knowledge that can transform us as leaders by converting the obstacles we face into our own best teachers. This requires an inner approach that aims to create personal strength and self-awareness along with influencing positive external change.

Taking this intrapersonal approach may feel very much like a leap of faith. You might ask, "Can't I learn from someone else's wisdom and expertise?" The answer, of course, is yes, but building trust also requires qualities that cannot be reduced to a few defined behaviors. Because a certain amount of risk is always involved and those risks are experienced quite personally, we may have to release new parts of ourselves -- our own courage, for example, freedom, or compassion. In the end, these may be much more important elements of building trust than any set of specific behaviors used to get through a short conversation.

In a sense, this makes the 9-step process described here is as much about you as a person and your life as it is about building a particular relationship. If that feels as if it pushes you up against an uncomfortable edge in yourself -- where you are not quite sure what to do or even what you need to learn -- that's a good thing. The process described here is one way to get at that inner tension, find out about it, and learn how to go beyond the edge toward greater confidence in yourself and your relationships.

And having said this, you are encouraged to take an open, even playful approach to this process -- take the work seriously, but not necessarily yourself!