Commerce means being merciful towards one another. You cannot have commerce unless you have mutual trust” (Alan Watts).

Whether you’re a B2B or B2C business, a manufacturer or a retailer, or something in between, you are engaged in commerce. What are the hallmarks of successful, impactful commerce? Profits? Clients? Positive reviews? Those are certainly all valid, but the foundation of commerce lies in the intangible: trust.

When we speak of training and business, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the corporeal and material. We spend so much time training employees on statistics and techniques and features, but without a pretext of trust, all that training is for naught. At the end of the day, it’s not about the product we’re selling, but the customer who’s buying it; it’s not about the service being offered, but the benefits it provides to the person investing in it; it’s not about the sale, it’s about the relationships we build with our customers and suppliers. Without the people, there would be no product, and connecting on a human-to-human level is integral.

The question, then, is how do we train trust? There’s no handbook or step-by-step guide for developing trust, and much of it is intuitive, but there are simple steps you can take to help employees develop and prioritize trust in their relationships with clients, customers and co-workers.

1. Remind them why it matters.

The first step in any effective training is to gain buy-in; if trainees don’t care about the training, they’re certainly not going to try hard to implement it. The same concept applies even to more ephemeral concepts like trust. Perhaps you could present a story trainees can relate to of a time when a situation collapsed because of a lack of trust. This type of story will gain their attention.

2. Practice.

Don’t just tell trainees that trust matters; show them. Let them experience both sides of the situation so that they can understand both what it’s like to lose trust in someone in a business setting and how to avoid that loss of connection. Help them practice developing genuine relationships with the people they interact with – whether those are clients or customers, business associates or buyers – so that they can develop personable skills to use in real time. Like any other skill, practicing developing trust makes perfect.

3. Continue to guide them.

Once trainees have participated in the training, check in with them to see if and how they’re implementing the subtle art of trust. If possible, watch their interactions with clients and offer feedback based on their behaviors. Make sure they understand you’re a resource not just for technical knowledge but for personal skills, too.

As Alan Watts says, trust means being merciful with each other; it means recognizing the humanness in the people we work with rather than just the sterile structure of our business interactions. Even training is a form of commerce – after all, you’re offering goods, even if they’re intangible – and you should be merciful with your trainees. Give them the patience they deserve, and they’ll trust you and adjust their own perspective on trust.

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