By Charles Randall
20 January 2017
A recent newsletter from the London-based Academy of Executive Coaching contained some interesting thoughts about the use of language and the use of phrases likely to trigger distrust.
This applied especially to politicians, but anyone in authority, such as cricket captains, might like to take note of an online survey carried out by the academy.
This concluded that the vast majority of people are more likely to trust someone using simple language, as indicated by 83 per cent of the respondents. The 'honest truth is' that hackneyed soundbites decrease trust.
The academy reckoned that the use of supposedly reassuring words and phrases such as “honestly”, “believe me”, “trust me” and “let me be clear” spoken by leaders could cause instant distrust, backfiring spectacularly by suggesting the exact opposite of their intended effect.
The use of complicated language is likely to cause people to distrust what they hear, though only about half the respondents felt they were more likely to believe someone giving short concise answers without going into detail.
According to the academy, the 10 most commonly used phrases arousing suspicion were:If I’m honest… Let me be clear… Believe me… The honest truth is… The fact is… To be fair… In terms of… The real issue is… I understand what you are saying but… In all honesty…
Gina Lodge, the academy's chief executive, said: "If someone repeatedly has to reassure you that what they are saying is true, that is an instant red flag that they are trying to mislead you. Similarly, a long, complicated answer is likely to be seen as evasiveness – trying to find a way to avoid telling the truth without actually lying."
The survey found that the three qualities most important to the apparent trustworthiness of a leader are emotional openness, calm rationality and benevolence. Displays of aggression, competitiveness and outspokenness were likely to cause people to question the trustworthiness of public figures. "This may come as a surprise given recent events in the US," said Lodge.
"During the election campaign we saw how Donald Trump deliberately used provocative language in his speeches. But he also used openly emotional language. He talked about his opponents being ‘mean’ to him or making ‘rude’ comments. He avoids speaking in managerial clichés and uses simple, direct language. This, more than the meaning of what he says, is why he was able to connect with people in such a powerful way."
The academy recently partnered John Blakey, author of The Trusted Executive, to identify what leadership qualities help inspire trust. His conclusion was that aggression and competition among peer groups no longer worked. "Ideas of benevolence are becoming more and more important," he said.
All this might have some relevance for captains and coaches in cricket.