Building Higher Trust 3 Trust is More Complex Than We Realize

December 16, 2020

I start out every speaking engagement by asking my audience how they would define trust. It is an amazing exercise, because we all know what it is and experience it all the time, yet to define it precisely is a bit of a challenge.

Normally, the group is pretty quiet, then someone will say something like, “Trust is confidence.” Another person might offer, “Trust is integrity,” or “Trust is good follow up.” On and on it goes with adjectives that have a bearing on trust, but none of them come close to a robust definition.

More than just with people


I then share that nearly every one of the definitions offered had to do with trust between one person and another. In my previous article on Trust, I pointed out that trust is ubiquitous. It exists when we interface with any product or service. It is not just a phenomenon between people, it is a phenomenon between ourselves and every other thing we interface with.


Categories of Trust with People


Since the most familiar way we experience trust is in interpersonal relations, this article will amplify on that part of the general topic. Trust exists between people, but there are numerous different categories of trust in that realm. Trust is more like a mosaic; it has lots of parts and flavors.

For example, it I have confidence that you will do what you say, then that is one type of interpersonal trust. Trust is also a feeling that you will not hurt me in any way. It can also mean that you are looking out for my best interest. It might be that we share a common value of high trust in each other.

Basically, I believe interpersonal trust is a montage of concepts that weave together into a pattern that changes from moment to moment depending on what is going on at that time. Here is a link to a 3-minute video that expands on the concept of categories of interpersonal trust.

Bonus Video

Here is a link to a short video on this topic.



Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 1000 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations



Body Language 68 Shock

February 21, 2020

The differences between facial expressions indicating shock versus those of surprise or fatigue are small.

In this article I will discuss my take on how you can tell these three emotions apart from the shape of the open mouth, along with other cues that point to a specific emotion.

When a person is experiencing shock, the mouth goes wide open, as in the accompanying picture. The mouth is open and makes the shape of the letter “O.” The eyes are generally wide open to the fullest extent and the eyebrows and forehead are pulled up as much as is humanly possible.

This is the classic look of a person who is in shock. I believe there is a difference between a shocked facial expression and one of a person who is surprised. Often a surprise is something that is happy to the person, so I would look for more of a smile while still having the mouth full open.

The second picture conveys the emotion of surprise better than the first one, at least in my mind. Her mouth is open, but there is definite smile involved.

Notice that the person is showing her teeth whereas the person in shock will tend to not show teeth. Of course, the surprise could be something negative, but that happens in a minority of cases.

With a negative surprise, there would still be an open mouth, but the expression would resemble more of a frown. That is actually pretty rare.

If you look up pictures for the emotion of surprise, you will see that nearly all of them are showing a smile, and the majority of them have hands to the face in some way: often holding a cheek or even both cheeks.

In the case of fatigue, you also see a wide open mouth, but with a yawn the hand is usually attempting to cover the mouth and the eyes are shut tight, whereas with surprise or shock the eyes are fully open.

A yawn can originate in different ways.  Often it is a form of mirroring the gestures of others.

I am sure we have all caught ourselves yawning immediately after another person has done the same thing.

Another cause for a yawn is insecurity or doubt.  If we are anxious about something, we will tend to yawn a lot more. Notice yourself yawning while sitting in the waiting room at the dentist.

With all three of these gestures, the mouth is wide open, but the ancilliary cues give us enough information to interpret the emotion correctly.

What is of interest here is that you need to assemble various bits of data in real time and put together a mosaic of the cluster of signals to interpret an expression accurately.

Several different emotions involve an open mouth, so you need more data than just that fact to understand what the person is experiencing.

The last statement holds true for all types of body language gestures. The particular one in this article is a case in point how slight differences can mean entirely different things, and you need to be alert to look at the whole picture.

There are two ways you can use this information professionally. First, you can ask the right questions based on an accurate reading of the other person’s emotions.

For example, you might ask, “Why do you find that statement to be shocking?” Alternatively, if you see a smile in connection with a wide open mouth, you might ask “What about what I just said is surprising to you?”

A second way you can use this information is to make note of your own body language in specific circumstances. Are you confusing other people when you yawn as opposed to reacting with surprise?

In other words, keep track of how accurately you convey your true emotions with your gestures.

In every case, you need to use Emotional Intelligence to make an appropriate reflection of how you are interpreting the gestures. Doing that will enhance the trust other people put in you and thereby strengthen your relationships.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”