Over the last few days I’ve been thinking about trust and the importance of cultivating it in my relationships with others. Many would argue that trust is the central pillar upon which our relationships are built.
If we want to get ahead and make progress in becoming who we are and achieving what we want to achieve, whether in a personal or business context, we can speed up the journey (and certainly make it more fulfilling) by working with others along the way. This means giving of ourselves and also relying on and trusting others to help us.
Ernest Hemingway said “The best way to find out if you can trust someone is to trust them”. That’s easy to say but not always easy to do. It depends, to a large extent, on our past experiences and the gravity of the matter at hand.
The good news is that trust usually breeds trust and there are many things we can do to help others develop their trust in us. Here are some steps1 that we can take:
Keep our word. We have to prove that we can be counted on to deliver on what we say we will. If we commit to something, we need to do it. No excuses. Otherwise, we shouldn’t commit. So we need to be careful with what we promise. If we’ve promised something and it subsequently looks like we can’t do it, then we need to proactively let the other person know. For example, “John, at the beginning of the month, I told you I’d get a meeting set up for us with Mary this week. As you can see, there’s nothing in the diary yet. I’ve tried to get in touch with her several times but to no avail. I’m going to try some other ways of reaching her so that we can make the meeting happen. Therefore, it’s more likely we’ll see her next week than this week.” People are usually forgiving if we take the initiative to communicate. However, if they have to chase us, it’s a different matter. Our reputation will take a hit.
Tell the truth. This can be hard. Most of us like to think of ourselves as truthful people. However it’s easy to bend the truth, spin the facts or conveniently leave out the evidence that doesn’t support our position. If we’re going to build trust, then we have to commit ourselves to telling the truth – even when it’s difficult or embarrassing. People are more forgiving than we think and most of them don’t expect us to be perfect because they recognise they’re not perfect themselves! If we mess up, a little humility in acknowledging the mistakes we’ve made and coming clean can really help maintain trust.
Be transparent. We’ll be trusted more if we learn to share ourselves, warts and all. This means sometimes taking risks and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. The magic with this kind of transparency is that it creates rapport – an essential ingredient for building trust. However, we must be authentic and not use false transparency as a gimmick or ‘technique’. Most people will spot that and see it as manipulation. The reason transparency builds trust is because we’re demonstrating trust. We’re taking the initiative to go first. In essence, we’re saying, “I trust you. I’m taking off my mask and showing you my true self. Some of it isn’t very nice. But I’m willing to take that risk, believing you will still accept me.” This kind of self-revelation almost always gives the other person the courage to take off their mask, too. And that builds trust. The relationship is deepened and goes to a new level.
Give without any strings attached. Nothing builds trust like unconditional giving. Sharing our knowledge, contacts and compassion without expecting anything in return is a great way to let others know that it’s not “all about us.” From this, people learn that they can trust us, because they see that we have their best interests at heart. Once again though, we must be authentic and careful how we give so it’s not perceived as manipulation. Our motives must be pure and we can’t expect something in return.
So there you are – perhaps a few things to think about? I’m going to trust myself to keep these steps in mind the next time I have the opportunity to put them into action.
“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” Stephen R. Covey
1 Four steps inspired by an excellent article by Michael Hyatt