Climate of distrust leads to climate of over-justifying

‘Globally, trust in the institutions of business, media, government and NGOs dropped three points in 2017. Distrust of media is at an all time low, government trust continues to erode, and two-thirds of surveyed countries are now “distrusters’ with under 50% trust.’ (2017 Edelman Trust Barometer)

What happens when trust is low?

What happens to the customer or client when they hear a message full of justification?


What happens in our brains when we sense there is distrust?

So the trust thing is hard-wired as part of survival. But Trust isn’t just about survival and all nice and cosy — it involves risk.

When we trust others we open ourselves up to being tricked or hurt. Being trustworthy also involves us behaving in more open ways that make us feel vulnerable. However, generally the balance is achieved between risk and payoff — we need to allow for trust more often than shut it out.

Anything that involves risk inevitably triggers off the much talked about fight, freeze or flight process in our brains. If there is no sabre- toothed tiger on the prowl, we generally control these instincts and make more rational decisions after dealing with the instant emotional response. BUT… what if we are on a constant alert that has become the norm — distrust of media, government and experts. What if we are being clothed in a cloak of cynicism — and yet for our business to succeed we need our customer’s or client’s trust?

Something contrary happens when trust is shaky.

shaky trust cycle

We have to create trust if we are to engage and influence — so how?

How to we short circuit the ‘shaky trust cycle’?

Firstly — we need to be aware of it when it happens. If we hear ourselves over-justifying or becoming defensive we need to press pause and recognise what is going on.

Here are some examples of ‘over justifying’ communication behaviours in business situations:

Networking introductions:

  1. Going on about yourself and all your qualifications
  2. Going on about the business and EVERYTHING it does
  3. Bragging about testimonials
  4. Leading with negatives: ‘ I know lots of people are sceptical about…. but they are wrong….’


  1. Preparing copious slides of data to prove a point
  2. Leading with ‘about me’ rather than ‘ I have been thinking about you’ attitude
  3. Slagging off the competition


  1. Over prepared agenda with no room for input
  2. Not allowing people to express opinion
  3. Creating an atmosphere of ‘competitiveness’ rather than ‘collaboration’

‘Cold’ calling:

  1. Pushing the company credentials hard from the start
  2. Not allowing pauses for them to come in with questions
  3. Knocking the competition

Once you are aware of the symptoms — how do you slay the ‘shaky trust cycle’ dragon?

slay the ‘shaky trust’ cycle

When you feel your defences coming up and your panicky ‘must make them trust me’ brain being triggered, try going through this process:

  1. Whoa! What is my brain doing?
  2. I might be misreading the mood or body language — mustn’t make assumptions
  3. Think about this from their perspective — a lot of distrust around — bound to make people a little anxious and cautious — take that into consideration — it is the same for all of us.
  4. That distrust is not aimed at me or my business — it is just a general state.
  5. Nothing has changed about the value of me or my business — I am still credible and trustworthy — I still offer a service or product that can meet their needs. I still have a message worth listening to.
  6. I must stop turning inwards — keep open mind and open body language.
  7. Listen listen listen. Don’t turn into a self-conscious people pleaser.

That should do the trick.

Give it a go. Distrust is contagious and toxic… don’t don the cloak of distrust and shield of justification — and don’t allow distrust to become the norm.



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Trisha Lewis.

Human communication fascinates me. How we squash or boost confidence and connection. TEDx Speaker, coach and author. No more Self Squashing®