Think about the last conversation you had with a co-worker. How did it go? Did you walk away feeling positive about the interaction or did you leave feeling as if you weren’t on the same page?

The author of Conversational Intelligence, Judith Glaser, defines Conversational Intelligence as “the intelligence hardwired into every human being to enable us to navigate successfully with others.” Her work shares “everything happens through conversations.” If we want to increase our effectiveness with others, we need to understand what goes on in our brain during conversations and how these responses and reactions either support or hinder us as we interact with others.

The importance of building trust during conversations is one of the big takeaways I got from this book. The author states that within the first 7 seconds of conversation, the brain registers trust or distrust, and this reaction has a significant impact on the effectiveness of the interaction. Study of the brain reveals that if distrust is triggered in those first 7 seconds, the reptilian/old brain – and specifically the amygdala – is activated. This triggers a fear response that causes us immediately to go into fight, flee, freeze or appease mode. When this happens, we are not able to process what is being said and are not able to be fully open and receptive to what the other person is saying. Conversely, if trust is triggered, the pre-frontal cortex is activated, causing not only our brain but our heart to be open and receptive and enabling us to engage in a collaborative and production conversation.

So how do you activate the pre-frontal cortex and not the amygdala during conversations? While our non-verbal communication has a significant role in triggering trust/distrust, our words, if chosen wisely, can contribute greatly to building trust in conversations. Here are some words and phrases that help shift distrust to trust.

This week, watch what goes on for you during interactions. When is distrust/trust activated in you? What happens to you when distrust/trust is activated? Try using some of the “trust” phrases when interacting with others and see what happens.

Remember “everything happens through conversations.” What you say and how you say it really does matter!

Theresa Gale