In the News: Trust Your Audience

If you want your audience to trust you, show them that you trust them.

That’s the takeaway from a new article in Harvard Business Review. While the whole article is worth a read, here’s an executive summary of the science behind it:

. . . many employees say they do not feel trusted by their managers. And when employees don’t feel trusted, workplace productivity and engagement often suffer. It’s up to managers to signal trust in their employees in consistent and thoughtful ways. . . .


Employees who are less trusted by their manager exert less effort, are less productive, and are more likely to leave the organization. Employees who do feel trusted are higher performers and exert extra effort, going above and beyond role expectations. Plus, when employees feel their supervisors trust them to get key tasks done, they have greater confidence in the workplace and perform at a higher level.


In short, trust begets trust. When people are trusted, they tend to trust in return. But people must feel trusted to reciprocate trust. Managers have to do more than trust employees; they need to show it.

The rest of the article provides a clear roadmap for how leaders can signal trust and avoid signaling distrust, including sharing information, giving up (some) control, and helping your employees reach their goals. But in the end, it boils down to this one Tweetable insight: showing your audience you trust them and support their goals, they’ll be more likely to trust you and support yours.

In the News: The Power of Trust

In a recent article on Select/All, Jesse Singal reported on a recent study by the American Press Institute about how people decide what to trust on social media.

What they found was that for the most part, people “ignore the source of a given claim, focusing way more on the trustworthiness of the person sharing it.” Specifically, “people who see an article from a trusted sharer, but one written by an unknown media source, have much more trust in the information than people who see the same article from a reputable media source shared by a person they do not trust.” (For example, how much you trust what I’m saying right now depends more on how much you trust me, Nick Enge, than it does on how much you trust Jesse Singal or the API.)

Although this research was conducted in the context of social media, it has important implications for speaking as well. First, in case it wasn’t already obvious, getting your audience to trust you matters—a lot. In the study, when the sharer was someone the viewer trusted, the viewer not only perceived the shared article to be more accurate and well-reported, but also less biased, more entertaining, better organized, and more “share-worthy.” Furthermore, how much the audience trusts you is more important than how much they trust your sources. This means that although you can bolster your expertise by citing trustworthy experts, you can’t rely entirely on this technique—the audience needs to trust you as well. Of course, the best thing you can do is make sure that your audience trusts everything along the chain of evidence—from you, to your sources, to your sources’ sources. But as this study shows, while all of the these things matter, what matters most is that the audience trusts you.