Can You Trust Someone You Don’t Like


Can You Trust Someone You Don’t Like? 

“…You like me, right now, you like me!”- Sally Fields, 1985

“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me. All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”- Jackie Robinson, 1947

Can you trust someone you don’t like? Or can you like someone you don’t trust? While trusting and liking someone are not mutually exclusive, what can we gather from our relationships if we define them along the Trust versus Liking dimensions?

First, let’s define Trust and Liking.

According to Michelle and Dennis Reina, creators of the Reina Trust & Betrayal Model, trust is about contracting (credibility, consistency, keeping promises), communications (openness, truth-telling and vulnerability) and competence (believing in and involving others). Trust comes from a more cognitive/rational level.

On the other hand, Liking is about affection. The renowned social psychologist, Robert Cialdini defines liking to be about attractiveness, similarity and association/cooperation between individuals. Liking seems to come from an emotive level.

Based on the Trust and Liking dimensions, we can categorize relationships into 4 types as apparent from the Trust/Lining Matrix below:

Trust vs LikeCold Relationship (Low Trust/Low Liking)

Understandably, this type of relationship is not going to lead to much engagement and collaboration. It is almost like a meeting of strangers.


Casual Relationship (Low Trust/High Liking)

This relationship typifies casual friendship and acquaintances. It exists primarily for social interactions like meeting someone at a party and discover both of you have a lot in common to talk about. Or an old friend and schoolmate whom you can swap old stories..


Contractual Relationship (High Trust/Low Liking)

Here we are describing more formal and work-related relationships. Both parties cooperate to achieve a common end. They don’t have to enjoy each other’s company for mutual work to be done. Often, compromises need to be made in order to get things done.


Covenantal Relationship (High Trust/High Liking)

This relationship is to be aspired. It leads to real long-term collaboration (versus mere cooperation) where win-win is the order of the day. This type of relationship will stand the test of trials and time.


So How Can We Develop More Covenantal Relationships?

First of all, we need to accept the reality that we cannot and need not aim to build covenantal relationships with everyone. For one thing, liking and rapport is subjective. We cannot guarantee that everyone else will like us. Many uncontrollable variables like interpersonal chemistry, common background etc exist. Similarly, trust can be higher with some people than others. With some people, we cannot totally be vulnerable lest our interests get adversely impacted. With less trust-worthy individuals, we cannot freely believe and empower them.

We should develop covenantal relationships with people who are important enough to us to build collaborative ties with. With them, we can focus on the following:


Based on the Reina Model, to increase trust, we need to work on:

Contractual Trust Communication Trust Competence Trust
·      Manage expectations

·      Establish Boundaries

·      Delegate appropriately

·      Encourage mutually serving intentions

·      Honor Agreements

·      Be consistent

·      Share Information

·      Tell the truth

·      Admit mistakes

·      Give and receive constructive feedback

·      Maintain confidentiality

·      Speak with good purpose


·      Respect people’s knowledge, skills, and abilities

·      Respect people’s judgment

·      Involve others and seek their input

·      Help people learn skills




According to Robert Caldini, to increase the chance of getting others to like us, we need to work on:

  • Be a good listener and show interest in others
  • Conversely, de-emphasize on your own self needs and ego
  • Go in with the mindset of how you can help others
  • Find common grounds and interests to focus conversations on
  • Mirror them as far as you can without being fake
  • Create a good impression in appearance, speech and mannerisms
  • Ensure more frequent and repeated contacts and interactions
  • Associate yourself with positive and favorable things, events, people etc


By mutually developing trust and liking in our key relationships, we can build more lasting and impactful collaborations in all areas of our lives.


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Help People Change with 4 Discoveries

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Leaders/Coaches/Mentors support their people/clients in the discovery process. Real and sustainable changes have a greater chance of taking place if a person’s world views and perspectives change. When that happens, behaviors will correspondingly change. A leader who sees himself/herself as a driver of results will act very differently from another who perceives his/her leadership role as one that supports people to get results.

In my coaching, I find 4 possible discovery perspectives and questions a leader/coach can use to impact change in others.


Let’s first understand the discovery journey. It involves 3 stages:

  • Be aware of current perspective- We are often so absorbed in our world that we don’t look up to question it. A person grows up being told that success is all about making and having more money. However, chasing after the dollar can bring about a great deal of stress and disillusion.
  • Discovering alternative perspectives- The person then discovers that success can mean different things: a career that one is passionate about, a happy family life, health, ability to help and serve others etc.
  • Accepting and adopting a new perspective – That person might then adopt a perspective that success is about living out one’s passion. The resulting change can be a new career or lifestyle.

Discovery does not happen on its own. We need someone to help us. Here are 4 possible discovery perspectives and questions a leader/coach can use to impact change in others.

  • Time– We can get so caught up in a particular phase in time without seeing the broader timeframe. One can continue to revel in the glorious past or naively cling onto a wishful hope that things will work out on their own. Or we can be so immersed in our current woes that everything seems hopeless.

Discovery questions to ask:

“If you do this now, what would be the result in a year’s time?”

“Could you recall a similar situation in the past? How did you handle it?”

“What is going to be different in the future? What has changed from 5 years ago?”

  •  People– We often use this perspective to make people aware of their impact on people around them. This perspective targets self-centeredness that focuses on “What’s in it for me?”

Discovery questions to ask:

“How would your actions affect others?”

“What does your boss/direct reports/peers/family think about this?”

“Even if you achieve the goal, what is the cost to people around you? What can you do that can impact others more positively?”

  • Intent/Goal– Another consequence in being so absorbed in our world is we can forget the original intent or reason why we are doing something. In this case, we need to be reminded and brought back to our “first love”

Discovery questions to ask:

“What do you hope to achieve at the end? What legacy do you want to leave behind?”

“You have been saying your goal is to …. How is doing this going to help you do that?”

“How is this consistent with your purpose? What should you then do to be more aligned with that purpose?”

  • Balance– Finally, our propensity to take a position means we might be less flexible and open to other positions on the same continuum. We become blind to opposite views and opinions. This can lead to dogmatism that can adversely impact collaboration.

Discovery questions to ask:

“You keep saying this is wrong. What if it is right?”

“How willing are you to consider the other position? If so, let’s explore the positive merits of that position?

“What make the others hold a different view from yours?”

These 4 discovery perspectives can help others broaden their world views and enable them to make effective changes.

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Mentoring has been a regular form of development in countless organizations. A succinct definition that explains the essence of mentoring is coined by a good friend and collaborator, David Clutterbuck:

Off-line help by one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work or thinking.”                                          Megginson and Clutterbuck, “Mentoring in Action”, 1995.

The key word here is “Off-line”. The relationship between the mentor and the mentee should not be a direct reporting one. Within this context, mentoring exists to give the mentee an open, transparent and authentic platform to sound and seek out perspectives from a more experienced yet unbiased individual. In the realm of talent and leadership development, our tendency is to focus on equipping and preparing the mentor and leader to play the role. Often neglected is the equipping of the mentee and follower to play their respective role. Yet mentoring, like leadership, is a relationship that takes two hands to clap. We need to equally prepare both the mentor and mentee for their respective roles. In this article, we explore key attributes that mentees need to display:

  • Purposeful– a motivated mentee would go into the mentoring relationship knowing what he/she wants to achieve. While mentoring does not require intensive, succinct goals, research has shown that without at least a focus on a couple of themes, the relationship will gradually dwindle into idle chit-chats. This will then lead to a cessation of meetings as both parties will find them a waste of their scare time. A successful mentoring relationship comprises of a couple of mutually agreed-upon developmental themes for the mentee. These usually revolve around soft competencies like interpersonal relations, motivation of staff, time management, conflict resolution etc. These themes are broad “I want to be…” statements, usually observable but not necessarily measurable. Examples: “I want to be more competent in managing conflicts”, “I want to be better in time management”. Given the nature of the offline relationship, we do not want to impose undue pressure that come with formal measurable KPIs.
  •  Proactive – the make-or-break of a mentoring relationship hinges on a mentee’s motivation. Mentoring exists primarily to help the mentee develop. It expects the mentee to manage the relationship. The mentee is expected to initiate the meetings, and arrange the logistics. The mentor is typically a busy senior executive who is volunteering his/her time to mentor. Courtesy dictates that the mentee, who is the main recipient of the benefits of mentoring, should be responsible for making sure the meetings take place smoothly and regularly. This is a test of the mentee’s learning aptitude. If a mentee is too busy to manage the mentoring relationship, one can question if this mentee is truly a high potential who can aspire to greater achievements when he/she cannot be bothered with his/her own self development or has the savvy to build relationships with senior people in the organization.
  •  Perspective-Taking– this means being open-minded enough to give and take differing views. A great mentee listens actively and objectively to the mentor’s perspectives and views without being defensive. On occasions, the mentee might think the mentor’s views are not relevant or helpful. The quickest way to shut down engagement is to rebut or disagree with the mentor. Instead, the mentee should adopt the mindset that what is irrelevant today might be relevant tomorrow. Therefore, just listen, thank the mentor and put that knowledge into the back of the mind.
  •  Perspective Challenging– On the other hand, the mentee needs to be prepared to open up and share own feelings, views and perspectives openly so that the mentor can get a good grasp of the mentee’s context in order to be better able to help and guide more effectively. If the mentee has a differing view, he/she needs to display the courage of stating it respectfully so that a meaningful dialogue can ensue. The mentoring relationship is designed to be a safe haven for both mentors and mentees to exchange perspectives. This is how learning can take place.
  •  Prepared– perhaps the most significant impact of mentoring takes place when the mentee puts into action what get discussed and agreed upon in the mentoring conversations. The mentee has to be willing to attempt to apply immediately what is learnt. That way, part of the mentoring conversations can revolve around a reflection and review of these experiences. The mentee can gain perspectives of what went well and what could be improved from their experiences. The mentee’s motivation for application serves as a great source of motivation for the mentor who takes heart their guidance can lead to results.

 The above 5Ps will enable the mentee to capitalize on the mentoring relationship and at the same time, help enhance and smoothen the mentor’s role.

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4 Key Competencies of a Great Mentor


Mentoring has been a regular form of development in countless organizations. A succinct definition that explains the essence of mentoring is coined by a good friend and collaborator, David Clutterbuck:

Off-line help by one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work or thinking.”                                          Megginson and Clutterbuck, “Mentoring in Action”, 1995.

The key word here is “Off-line”. The relationship between the mentor and the mentee should not be a direct reporting one. The mentor, ideally, cannot directly or indirectly influence the performance reviews of the mentee. This arrangement brings about a key implication- the mentor is stretched outside his/her comfort zone of a regular leader. The mentor cannot direct or manage the mentee as he would his/her direct reports. Instead, the mentor has to play the role of an adviser, friend and sounding board. In other words, the role of a mentor, albeit with some overlaps, is different from that of a leader. Many mentoring programs fail because mentors cannot switch roles as needed. So what are some key competencies a mentor needs to build to be impactful?

  • Vulnerability– whilst a successful leader would need to build collaborative ties with his/her direct reports anyway, the need to build rapport with a mentee who is a relatively unknown is more pressing. Many mentors point a finger at their mentees, that they are not open enough to share their hearts and minds. Yet, most mentees are understandably apprehensive in front of the more senior mentors. It rests on the mentor to relate to the mentee on a more even and personable level. A key to do so is to dare to be vulnerable:  be willing to take initiative to share personal background and views and feelings. A good practice is to share personal story: a chronological and detailed account of one’s history highlighting one’s proudest moments and more importantly, darkest moments and the accompanying lessons learnt. Once the mentee perceives the mentor to be “human”, he/she will relax and be willing to be a friend.
  •  Focus– the mentoring relationship needs anchors to stay relevant. Though the offline relationship means both parties can talk about anything under the sun, successful mentoring leads to development and learning on the part of the mentee. To do so, the mentor needs to keep in mind a couple of key developmental areas that both parties have to agree upon at the outset of the relationship. These are themes, not KPI goals. They are usually soft-skills, competency-based that begin with “I want to be…” Examples: to be more decisive, to build closer relationships with my peers, to be able to delegate more etc… These can change during the course of the relationship but at any period in the relationship, both parties need to keep these themes in focus.
  •  Reflect/Aware/Learn– the offline philosophy means the mentor’s role is neither a directive nor supervisory one. Instead, the mentor can add more value by helping the mentee view an issue from multiple perspectives and not push his/her own opinions and solutions. The mentor should be more concerned that the mentee can understand and learn better rather just do better. It is the prerogative of the direct boss to coach the mentee for performance. The mentor needs to stay objective to help the mentee do the following:
    •  Reflect- Great mentors always ask “What happened?” They guide their mentees to reflect on their experiences. To slow down and relive their work and personal lives. Example: The mentor draws out his mentee to share her conflict with a peer.
    • Aware- Next, the mentors would ask “So What?” Doing so would take their mentees further down the road of reflection to ponder and realize what they did well and did not. Here, the mentees would become aware of the impact of their actions. Here, the mentors can share relevant own experiences to encourage and inspire their mentees. From the earlier example, the mentor then helps the mentee realize that she was partly responsible for the conflict as she has always refused to help when the peer ask. The mentor can then share a personal experience about how he had put away his pride to help another colleague and hence improved his collaboration with that colleague.
    • Learn- Finally, the mentors would ask “Now What?” The mentees are made accountable to take the awareness and convert it to lessons for the future. In the example, the mentee learns that she needs to take responsibility for any conflict and proactively extends the olive branch to improve relationships and reduce stress.

The mentor thus acts as a mirror and sounding board for the mentee. This is challenging for most leaders who are probably used to direct and tell their staff what to do. Again, the offline relationship eases this tension as the mentor is not direct responsible for the mentee’s performance.

  •  Confidentiality– the mentor endeavors to assure the mentee that the mentoring relationship is a safe and trustworthy one. The mentee will only let his/her guard down and be open to share experiences if he/she is sure that the mentor will be not judge and keep confidences. An often-seen dilemma is when the mentee discusses problems with the boss who could be a friend and colleague to the mentor. The mentor has to take extra precaution to not reveal what is shared to the boss and more importantly, stay objective enough to help the mentee reflect, be aware and learn how to work better with the boss. An exception to the almost-encompassing confidentiality etiquette is when the mentee reveals information that is detrimental to the interests of the organization. The mentor has no obligation to stay silent if the mentee reveals that a fellow colleague is taking bribes. This condition has to be made known to all mentors and mentees at the start of the relationship.

 The above competencies reflect the self-developmental nature of mentoring which typifies the clique: “don’t give the person a fish, help the person learn how to fish.” If all leaders can master the above competencies, imagine how the culture of the place will transform into a more collaborative and high-performing one.

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2 simple yet powerful ways to bring the best out of people


Collaboration and engagement are all the rage today in organizational leadership. All leaders, regardless of cultures and industries, recognize the importance of these competencies to their organizations’ successes. Much have been researched and written on these subject matters. While most of the literature out there is helpful, it seems that what is seemingly simple is made complex sometimes. I shall instead attempt to make the complex simple there.

How do we bring the best of out of others? I like to think in terms of complementing and supplementing people.

Complement: This is not about showering praises and patting others on their backs. What it entails is leveraging on people’s strengths. To enable and empower people to make full use of their strengths. Someone who is energetic and extroverted would be happier and more effective if tasked to make a presentation or lead a project team. Another person who is more introverted and analytical would be better suited to a support role collecting and providing information and advice in the same team. Leaders need to find and use the right people for the right roles. In personal relationships, this can translate into simple acts like allowing someone who loves to talk the space and floor to do so even if you yourself love to talk. It is about respecting others’ inclinations and perspectives to put them first before self. Those of us who are proponents of Positive Psychology would attest to the importance of developing and emphasizing our strengths and at the same time, downplaying our “weaknesses”.

Supplement: Talking of “weaknesses”, we cannot simply dismiss or ignore them. They are real and everyone has them. Key is to compensate for them. Or work around them. There are 3 ways to do this. Firstly, as much as possible, allow people to avoid tasks or assignments that require the use of competencies that are challenging to them. For example, don’t hold a reality-grounded/pragmatic engineer accountable for creating the next generation of products. Or make someone who is imaginative handles a routine/operational job. A second way to supplement would be to augment these “weaknesses”- get someone else who is better to help out. A leader who is strategic needs a right-hand person who is execution-oriented. A task master needs a partner who is more empathetic to keep the team together and achieve the goals at the same time. Thirdly, when one cannot avoid or augment unpleasant tasks, a person would need the support of someone else to encourage and challenge him/her to accept and complete the said tasks. This supporter has to possess the courage and will to balance the carrots and sticks. A typical approach is to give constant feedback, both positive and developmental. Consciously give a thumb up to a normally brash person who controlled his temper and tongue during a key meeting. Or kick him under the table when he is about to lose his cool. This is about caring enough for others to make them look good and be willing to be unpopular to stretch them to do so.

When we treat every relationship in terms of complementing another person’s strengths and supplementing his/her shortcomings, we make the relationship and the person whole. Try it and experience the impact for yourself.