Asking Permission To Rebuild Trust

Asking permission to rebuild trust - Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash

Many leaders I work with find themselves dealing with broken relationships. Trust has evaporated and has been replaced by suspicion and blame. In the heat of the breakdown, it often seems there is no way back. Some clients wish they could transport themselves into another job or think about giving up work altogether. Dealing with the conflict on an ongoing basis just isn’t worth it. Perhaps this is familiar to you?

Rebuilding Trust

While it often seems futile, there are some things we can do to rebuild trust and recover the relationship. I’ve talked at length about the coaching style of staying curious and asking questions. Asking questions is a powerful way to build trust in a relationship. It is certainly more effective than telling or worse insisting the other person accepts your point of view. Asking questions is a great way to seek to understand the opposing point of view and the motivation behind it. With this knowledge, it may be possible to connect to what the other person cares about and start to create some common ground.

This has been my typical advice to people who face challenging conversations. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. While attending a webinar by Carol Wilson, a UK based team and executive coach, I gained a new insight about how to diffuse tension in a relationship. Carol talked about the power of asking permission to build trust. Her idea sounds very simple. Rather than jump in, ask permission. ‘May I ask you a question about this?’

The Power of Asking for Permission

Why does this work? Why does asking permission lead to a more productive outcome? The answer lies in the perception of control. When we try to interject, we are taking control of the conversation. The other person opposes this and we have a breakdown. Sometimes that shows up in conflict, sometimes the other person disengages. Either way, the conversation is broken. When we ask for permission, we allow the other person to retain control. This creates a greater chance of acceptance which can lead to increased trust. Especially if your intention is to better understand the other person.

Asking permission is a common practice in coaching and now I understand why it works so well. I am curious, may I ask you a question? How has asking permission worked for you? What has been the outcome?