How to Build Trust and Assess Trustworthiness

 

When I reflect on the best relationships in my life, both personally and professionally, the common denominator is always trust.

 

Trust makes life easier because it allows you to focus on building and growing as opposed to worrying and guarding. When there is low trust, it's hard to accomplish anything significant without expending extra energy and effort.

 

To build trust more effectively:

  • Increase your Credibility by building up your knowledge and expertise. Can you actually deliver on what you say you can deliver? Credentials and references will increase your trustworthiness.

  • Demonstrate your Reliability by developing a reputation for getting things done and keeping your word. If people can count on you to follow through, you'll be more trustworthy in their eyes.

  • Form a connection (Intimacy) and put the other person at ease so they feel comfortable opening up to you. One way to connect is to be appropriately vulnerable. You might be credible and reliable but if the other person doesn't open up to you, it'll be difficult to deepen your trust with them.

  • Be focused on others and reduce your Self Orientation. No one will trust you if they feel you're only out for yourself. Show people you care about them by first understanding what they want out of life and helping them get it.

Different people may put different weights on these four variables. For example, if you’re action and results oriented, you might give more weight to credibility and reliability. If you value relationships over getting things done, connectedness and low self-orientation may be more important to you.

A great way to internalize this trust formula is to assess the trustworthiness of those around you. Conduct a trust audit of your key relationships. Consider three to five people in professional and personal contexts that are relevant for you and assess them on the four dimensions of the equation.

For those you trust, break down why you trust them. For those who you don't trust, see where they might be falling short. For example, maybe you can't trust your boss because she is unreliable even though you know she has your best interest in mind. Perhaps you trust a specific teacher because they are good at what they do and they show how much they care about your learning and development.

 

Probably the more important question is how trustworthy are you?

Look at how you stack up against these 4 variables and set goals to increase your trustworthiness. Maybe you need to get an MBA to increase your credibility as a business leader or spend more time getting to know people and actively helping and appreciating them so you come across as less self-oriented.

Increasing the level of trust across all your relationships will lead to more meaningful and easier interactions.

 

To assess the level of trust in your relationships, look for the following signs of strong trust:

  • Open and relaxed exchange of information

  • A giving atmosphere as opposed to one where people are keeping score or operating tit-for-tat

  • Easy transactions - no haggling or complicated contracts

Another way to analyze the trust in your relationships along with increasing your own trustworthiness is to use David Maister's trust equation:

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