My mom tells me that when I was little I used to make a huge fuss about leaving the playground when it was time to go. However, she says that when she gave me a five minute warning, even when, admittedly, the full five minutes hadn’t gone by, I would happily trot off the play set when she said the time was up.
Why is that? It’s because she had set expectations and then met them. Knowing what to expect, I was happy to comply. But when she hadn’t communicated her expectations with me, I had made different expectations in my head and was upset when I couldn’t carry them out.
What We Communicate
Coming out of our series on communication, we’ve talked a lot about how we communicate with each other, so I think it’s pertinent now to look at what we communicate with each other, especially when it comes to building trust.
You see, clearly communicating expectations and then bringing them to completion helps build trust.
Let’s take the use of Coercive Power, for example. If a parent says “if you don’t clean your room, you won’t be able to watch tv tonight,” they are communicating expectations and setting out what the consequences will be for failing to comply. The parent is using Coercive Power by holding this consequence over their child.
If the child fails to clean their room and the parent makes good on their threat and withholds tv time, the child learns that their mom and dad mean what they say and might take the threat more seriously next time. However, if the child fails to clean their room and the parent still lets them watch tv after dinner, the child is learning that they can’t trust that their parent will follow through with what they say.
We communicate both with our words and with our actions. In the case of the parent who doesn’t uphold the intended consequence, they think that they are communicating authority with their words, but their actions undermine that authority by not acting out what they say they will do.
What we do as well as what we say helps build trust between sender and receiver.
As a sender, therefore, it is important that you do what you say you will do so that the receiver will learn that they can take you at your word.
As a receiver, it is equally as important that if the sender gives you responsibility that you steward that responsibility well and do what you agree to.
Building trust is incredibly important when it comes to communicating effectively. If you don’t trust the person you’re communicating with, that will be a major barrier to communication. Trust is also a key component of Referent Power, which we will address in the next article.
Therefore, as we seek to communicate expectations and set goals with those in our organization, let’s remember that we communicate, not only with our words, but with our actions as well. And let us seek to act in a way that will help build trust with those we interact with.
Gracie McBride is the Content and Systems Management Coordinator for The Crossroad.