Trust: a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
We’ve just agreed to a 2-month home exchange with the owners of a Paris apartment. I’m excited about going back to Paris, but I have to admit to a little anxiety. What if our home exchange partners back out or have to cancel at the last minute? What if their apartment isn’t what we expect it to be? What if they don’t take good care of our home while they’re staying here?
So much to worry about, even before deciding what to pack! But there’s an important thing I’ve learned as a long-time home swapper and short-term rental host: the best way to alleviate my anxiety is to build trust. Trust between hosts and guests helps to build confidence that everyone is who they seem to be and will honor their commitments.
It takes time to build trust
We’ve done more than half a dozen home exchanges and rented out our home innumerable times, so I know that trust doesn’t come overnight. A few email exchanges and a cursory glance at listing site reviews aren’t enough. Building trust between hosts and guests takes intention, time, and effort, starting with the inquiry and continuing all the way through the process. There are no shortcuts. Even if you’re overwhelmed with work or travel preparations and anxious to come to an agreement so you can get on to other things, resist the pressure to make quick decisions or to pressure the other person to do the same.
Building trust takes takes clear, ongoing communication
Communication is the key ingredient in building trust. Communication helps you and your guests get to know one another, clarify expectations, and confirm agreements. Communication is how you learn one another’s concerns and avoid the misunderstandings that can cause potentially serious problems.
The best way to use communication as a trust-building tool is through direct, person-to-person conversation. Email is perfectly fine for introductions, asking practical questions, and sharing details. But all the email exchanges in the world are no substitute for the back-and-forth of direct conversations. We always make it a point to talk with guests by phone or via Skype, if not before booking, then shortly afterwards.
Tip: Listen carefully – very carefully. People tend to trust one another more when they know that they are being heard. Let the other person speak without interrupting or “rehearsing” what you’re going to say. In both email and direct conversations, answer questions clearly. If you’re not sure what the other person is saying, ask.
To build trust, tell the truth
Trust comes when people share information openly and answer questions truthfully. It shatters like a fragile vase dropped on a cement floor when one person learns that the other person has lied, or even fudged the truth.
Truth-telling starts with your home exchange or short-term rental listing. What guests find when they arrive at your home should closely match what they’ve seen in the photos and read in the narrative description, so make sure they are accurate and complete.
The thing about lies is that once you’ve told them, it’s nearly impossible to backtrack. (Remember Pinocchio and the Boy Who Cried Wolf?) To build trust, always tell your guests the truth, and expect the truth from them.
Build trust by doing what you say you will do
Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge, say that the first principle of leadership is to “Walk the talk.” They mean that trust comes when people’s actions match their words. They keep their promises. They honor their agreements. When they say they will do something, they do it or explain why if they cannot. That’s a pretty good recipe for building trust.
To build trust, show respect
Trust and respect go hand-in-hand. Everyone wants respect. We want to feel that other people take our ideas and concerns seriously, even when we disagree.
There are several ways to show respect when you’re arranging a home exchange or short-term rental. Respond quickly to requests. Encourage the guest to ask questions, and answer theirs clearly and accurately. Be friendly and polite in email and direct conversation. Show that you understand what’s important to the other person, and if issues come up, show that you are willing to help.
What makes you trust someone? What shatters trust for you? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page.