The Language of Trust

As mentioned before, all organizations harbor inherent biases, and some institutions push their own agendas. The public trusts different kinds of organizations differently, and the public perception of trustworthiness and credibility is based on a variety of different factors. Across the board, the scientific community of researchers and their associated academic institutions are regarded as the most trustworthy source for information about the oil and gas industry and related issues.

According to Michael Maslansky et al. (2010)1, the following best practices help to communicate with the language of trust.

  1. Be Personal: Whether speaking as an organization or as an individual, keeping the message personal is your first tactic for connecting authentically with stakeholders. Relevant, tangible and human communications make communications real and therefore, more likely to be believed.
  2. Be Plainspoken: This strategy calls back the importance of adjusting the message for the stakeholder audience. It implies a balance of accurate and robust information that is the appropriate length and the appropriate level of complexity. Having realistic expectations of the audience’s level of knowledge on a subject will inform the language you use; and providing robust, yet digestible packets of information helps to convey expertise without being pedantic or abrasive.
  3. Be Positive: Positivity is not naivety or ignorance. It is an approach of looking forward and consistently representing yourself as ‘for’ a position rather than ‘against’ its opposite. Positivity connotes transparency and sets expectations for working together toward a goal.
  4. Be Plausible: Avoid superlatives, omissions and loaded words and phrases that could disarm or concern an audience of stakeholders. Avoiding extremes that are unrealistic or unsupported helps an audience accurately evaluate the whole of an argument. Neutral, nuanced communications are more likely to be believed than “always” and “never” claims. This approach also allows for the spectrum of possibilities and outcomes if variables change unexpectedly.

1. Maslansky, M., West, S., DeMoss, G., & Saylor, D. (2010). The language of trust: Selling ideas in a world of skeptics. Penguin.

Images: “Waiting For Godot” by rogiro licensed under CC BY NC 2.0