To really connect with another person we have to feel safe. One would think safety is easy to build but each person has had experiences in their past that make it difficult to authentically have. So what can you do when you feel like someone isn’t letting you in? When you feel like they have been burned and it is hard for them (or you) to trust? Below you will find some ways I have found to build a stronger – safer relationship even if it doesn’t seem possible.
1. Go to Where They Are
If someone doesn’t’ trust you, they may not be acting very nice. When you are in “I need to survive” mode, I can guarantee you don’t act nice either! If someone feels they need to survive, they can only think of themselves. You might be a real or an imagined threat. But to the other person it seems real. Take a moment to consider if they are just trying to survive. You may not agree with them, but if you try to understand where they are coming from there will be more empathy and thus they will feel you want to understand them. Even if you had not out-right been judging them, it was likely coming through in your energy. Take a moment to “be” them, to think of other perspectives or reasons for their actions. In this way, you can stop seeing them as “evil” and more as a person who is just trying to make it by.
2. Say What You Are Really Thinking
If you are nervous about something, the other person will sense it, but they may not know what you are nervous about. Be transparent. Let them know “I’m nervous that you don’t trust me.” or “When you said that I felt like you didn’t think I was doing my job.” or “I just really want this project to be a success.” If you are open with what you are thinking, they will stop wondering what you are thinking. Their intuition is picking up on the fact that you’re not connecting or that you are nervous. When they don’t know for sure, they guess. Usually how they name it errs on the side of ensuring their safety which may shed a favorable light on you.
3. Take Time to Know Them as a Person
If you can’t get out of the office for some sort of adventure (ropes course, lunches, taxi ride) just take small moments in the office to ask questions. “What did you do this weekend? What did you like about it? Would you do it again? Why or why not? “ If they say they had a bad weekend, ask what a good weekend would look like for them. Find out if they have kids, pets, or significant others. Make sure to remember these things and ask about them as you meet up in the future. Notice what you have in common – does it surprise you?
4. Think About What They Are Good At
Consider what they add to the team (even if it sometimes is a pain to you). There is always something that people have to contribute. Before you meet with them, pick up the phone or email – consider these strengths. Say them to yourself or out loud. Then engage with them. If it is genuine, tell them what you appreciate about them. They may not be used to you thinking or saying good things about them so be patient if they don’t react right away.
I’m curious – what do you do to build safety? How has it impacted your relationships? What are some ways you might increase the safety in a current relationship?