Creating the Environment: Moving from Distrust to Trust This is the third in a blog series about the course on Conversational Intelligence by Judith E. Glaser. The third module called, “Aspiring Conversations” explores the neurochemistry of aspirations and how different conversations activate chemicals that either open or close the space for aspirations to grow. A recent Harvard Business Review article by Paul Zak, “The Neuroscience of Trust” states that employees in high-trust cultures have 100% more energy at work, 76% more engagement, and are 50% more productivity. Zak identifies eight management behaviors that foster trust. One of those behaviors is “intentionally building relationships.” Meetings Designed to Build Trust One way to intentionally build relationships is the design of meetings. You can shift the outcome of a meeting by starting with a trust-building activity. This will slow down the primitive (fear-based brain) and allow other parts of the brain to actively engage and shift toward a belief that this will be a good experience. “Knowing others is intelligence, knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power.” — Laozi I have seen many meetings start with “ground rules”. The “do’s and don’ts” checklists do not activate the prefrontal cortex-heart brain connection where we have our whole mind, heart, and body invested in the outcome of the meeting. The heart brain is the most basic of our hardwiring. It enables us to connect to others. We are either in sync or out of sync with others. If we are in sync, we move towards the person as friends. If we are out of sync, we feel hesitation and move away, feeling the person may be a foe. The prefrontal cortex is the youngest bring, often called the “Executive Brain”. It provides us with the ability to see the future, create scenarios, and have empathy. How do we engage the prefrontal cortex and heart brains? Start meetings not with “Ground Rules” but “Group Agreements”. Rules close down the brain for some people. If they see “rules” as stifling, just using that word may have them begin the meeting already in a state of opposition. Agreements create a framework for a social contract, which brings people together. Group Agreements Move toward Trust To begin the exploration, ask everyone to identify one practice or behavior that would give this meeting the best outcome. What do we usually hear? “Respect other’s opinions.” “Be open to other ideas”. Here is where this approach is different… when someone using one of those frequently offered words, as a facilitator, use a skill called “double-click”. Just like a computer folder, to open up to deeper meaning, you double-click. Saying something like, “When you say ‘respect’, what does that mean for you?” This helps get to the core essence of what is important for that person. Make sure you hear from everyone in the room. If someone is quiet, reach out to them and ask, “What behaviors are important to you?” You want everyone’s voice and therefore brain activated, moving toward the prefrontal cortex-heart connection. Here is another important distinction from ground rules. Once you have your list, ask people to identify how they can give feedback if a group member is not honoring the agreements. This helps give agency and ownership to the team to be transparent, and supportive to guide the behaviors, that they agreed will create the successful outcomes for the meeting. When you create group agreements using double-clicking and establish collective ownership for monitoring the practice of those agreements, your meeting is primed with the level of trust in the environment that fosters a culture of aspiration. Anything is possible! Stay tuned for more tips to have meaningful conversations that transform leaders and organizations. This is the third in a blog series. Read the first blog at “Listening to Connect” and the second blog at “What We Can Learn from our Worst Conversations.” Photo credit: Rawpixel via Shutterstock.