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You can’t just talk trust… you must act

August 25, 2014

I was reading Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why” and came to the part that talks about the major levels of the brain.

“The newest area of the brain, our Homo sapien brain, is the neocortex, which corresponds with the WHAT level. The neocortex is responsible for rational and analytical thought and language. The middle two sections comprise the limbic brain. The limbic brain is responsible for all our feelings, such as trust and loyalty. It is also responsible for all human behavior and all our decision-making, but it has no capacity for language.” (p.55-56)

I’ve read about reptilian brain and reaction as opposed to analysis before, but this time the passage made me think about the limited effect of talking about trust – because the part of the brain that can process that “has no capacity for language” – and the critical importance of showing trust, building trust and setting all the right norms.

If you’ve read Twelve Weeks to Trust on this blog you know that I’m a firm believer in tangible mechanisms and processes that build and maintain trust in organisations. They are a tangible signal of how we want people to behave. They are concrete rules and actions that  the neocortex can analyze and understand and that the limbic brain can see in action. The limbic brain train of thought applies equally to inter-personal trust. It’s not enough to say “trust me” — our brain just can’t compute that. You have to show competence and benevolence. People need to feel the trust. And, that trust can drive behaviour and important decision-making.

What do you think about trust and brain science? How to you act to build, maintain or rebuild trust? I’d love to know.

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