Build credibility with oxytocin and other actions

by | May 21, 2012 | Blog | 0 comments

Got oxytocin?

Oxytocin is now recognized as the hormone that stimulates empathy, generosity and trust in individuals, based on more than 10 years of research by the neuro-economist Dr. Paul J. Zak.

As explained in his new book The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity, oxytocin acts as a chemical potion that builds bonds of trust in our personal lives, in commerce, business, in politics and in society at large.

Individuals in all settings are more likely to trust others—even strangers—when the oxytocin level in their blood is high.

You can boost your oxytocin levels and others’ levels by personally connecting with them—especially physically touching in real life. You can start the connection, get a boost from them, give them another jolt, and so forth, which forms a “virtuous circle.”

The implications are mind-blowing. Who knew you could create social glue through touching others?

However, counting on oxytocin as your chemical of choice is not always practical—even if it’s a natural hormone.

For example, many of us work primarily with virtual teams. Some of us would rather do pushups than hug (or do anything else that‘s physical for that matter). And a few of us don’t want to risk being criticized for sexual harassment.

Call me a cynic, but can high levels of oxytocin really overcome bad behavior?

What if you act like a jerk and don’t do what you’re supposed to do? For example, what about the bankers who lose money? The lawyers who don’t file the proper paperwork? The doctors who leave sponges in their patients’ bodies?  Yes, they may be outliers, but will any amounts of oxytocin remedy their relationships?

My take on this research is this.

First, the best route to building and maintaining credibility and trust is to follow a two-prong approach. Combine pumping up oxytocin levels with adhering to some old-fashioned deeds. Earn credibility and trust by fostering strong relationships and being competent in your area of expertise. Also, be likable, have integrity, stay composed and be action-oriented.

Second, recognize that trust these days is instilled in individuals, much more so than institutions or organizations. As a result, we all need to humanize ourselves—which is a rather clinical way of saying “Be real!”

So how making this commitment to one another? In the workplace, we’ll follow these building blocks of human behavior:

  1. Tell the truth.
  2. Respect others, especially their time.
  3. Keep our promises.
  4. Be ourselves.
  5. Be nice to others (especially when we’re feeling crabby).

Hugs are nice yet optional.

Taking these actions consistently will help us create stronger connections, trust each other more and get better results.

Will you join me?


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