Trust, Judgment and Influence

I was having breakfast with my good friend Barry Gleeson when the topic of trust came up.  I mentioned that, for some reason, people tend to trust me quickly.  His response?  “Because you don’t judge other people.”

Judgment and Trust

It wasn’t until he made that statement that I realized how accurate his assessment was. Long ago I learned to respect other people’s right to their values, beliefs and choices. Part of that respect came from my desire to have them respect my right to choose those same things for myself. I don’t feel that I have a right to their respect if I’m not willing to offer them the same respect. As a result I don’t judge other people’s values, beliefs or choices.

Because I’m not judging, because I show respect for their choices, people feel comfortable trusting me much more quickly than they typically do. When I offer suggestions, I do so within the context of their beliefs, values and choices.

If I’m about to suggest something that contradicts their current thinking, I ask them a question which allows them to examine the issue from a different perspective. When they do that, they validate their conclusions with their own experiences…in essence they persuade themselves that the approach I’m suggesting with my question is more viable than the one they’ve been using.

By asking a question instead of making a suggestion, I avoid challenging their values, beliefs or choices while enabling them to explore other options. Because there is no judgment in this approach they are more open to exploring alternatives and, again, trust that I’m working in their best interests when I ask the question.

Avoiding judgment

The obvious question is “How do I avoid making judgments especially when it’s a natural tendency we all possess by virtue of our humanity?”

The answer is a three-step process:

  1. Become aware that you’re making judgments.
  2. As you realize that you’re about to judge a person or situation, pause a moment a remind yourself that judgment creates bias which limits the number of possible solutions you see.
  3. Reframe what you’re about to say as an exploratory question instead of a statement. Exploratory statements, by nature, do not include judgment.

Becoming aware

Unfortunately, in the early stages of gaining awareness, that awareness is going to come from the fact that we created defensiveness or resentment in the other party. Ouch!

The good news is that, as we become more aware, as we train our minds to respect others’ value, beliefs and choices, we avoid many of the judgments we previously made.

We also learn to ask exploratory questions instead of making statements.  The more frequently that we practice steps two and three, the more quickly we move away from our natural tendency to judge.


If you want people to trust you, if you want them to know that you have their best interests at heart, train your mind to suspend judgment. You’ll gain trust almost instantaneously with everyone you meet. Enjoy!

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