Dialogue Builds Trust


In August, I responded to a Facebook post from an out-of-town diver. Thomas was looking for a guide to our local waters. I chose Diver’s Cove, 6:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 31, for our dive to beat the hordes of other divers who frequent the site. Even though Thomas was a new instructor, I chose Diver’s Cove in Laguna Beach for easy access and reduced wave size from the current swell: Safety and a positive dive experience first.

As we walked around and talked about the dive, he shared with me difficulties he was having with the shop with which he was associated. Thomas said they were not listening to his ideas and with the Covid-19 impact, they lowered his compensation to address their financial concerns.

Thomas’ internal conflict was an offer from a competing scuba shop versus his loyalty and appreciation for the current shop’s investment in him.

As dive instructors, we know that dialogue between authority and others is critical. Relationships have changed. On the news today, a police chief said the time for officers to force compliance with “Because I said so!” has past, and the solution is to take the pressure of time away and increase dialogue to further decrease the need for deadly force, which has already dropped 60 percent in the last two decades.

As I shared the need for dialogue, Thomas objected because he felt it should be the shop owner’s job. As we talked further, Thomas began to understand it as a mutual responsibility for a successful healthy relationship.

Thomas next expressed concern over the reaction of the shop owner if he learned about the offer from the other shop. Thomas said he was likely to hear “You’ve been talking to those guys!”

We talked about the risk involved. Thomas concluded their investment in him warranted the risk of the conversation versus the option of taking the other offer without a word.

While it has only been a few days since our dive, Thomas reached out to me to share his conversation with owner of the dive shop. Thomas did his homework and framed his message to encourage dialogue. To his surprise, the owner said he had not felt good about the plans he had made, and asked Thomas for his ideas to make more money for himself and the shop.

I asked Thomas how he felt about the relationship after the conversation. His response, “Our relationship has a new level of trust, and we are working on implementing different ideas. Equally important, I can share the lesson of dialogue with my students. My guess is this will open up better dialogue between myself and students.”

Imagine the positive results, you might experience by having a healthy dialogue with your business partners, especially while we have a little more time to talk. It’s a risk worth taking.