“Trust takes a long time to build and just a moment to destroy.” You’ve probably heard that old adage before, haven’t you? Well, it’s not true.
Like many aphorisms, there is an element of truth to the saying as it applies to certain situations, but the statement itself is not an absolute truth when it comes to trust. Trust can be built very quickly (consider the trust you place in a surgeon, whom you’ve never met, performing emergency surgery on you) and be one of the most resilient forces in any relationship (think of the number of times you’ve eroded trust with a family member yet trust continues to survive).
When it comes to building trust in relationships, not all behaviors are created equal. What I mean by that is certain behaviors contain more “oomph” when it comes to building trust; they help trust develop faster. Much like a weightlifter increases his intake of protein to help fuel muscle development, people interested in rapidly building trust can leverage these five, high-trust behaviors:
1. Extend trust – Trust is reciprocal. One person gives it, another receives it and gives it back in turn. Since someone has to make the first move, why not you? It’s hard for people to trust you if you aren’t willing to trust them. Trust involves risk, and if you wait for a time when there’s no risk in a relationship, you’ll never trust. Be smart about who you extend trust to and how much you give, but don’t be afraid to make the first move.
2. Listen without judgement – Think of the people you’ve trusted most in your life. There’s a good chance that most, if not all of them, were people who listened to you when you were frustrated, angry, upset, or just needed someone to talk to. They didn’t condemn you for the way you were feeling but listened to your concerns and offered appropriate and timely counsel, without judgement or blame. Listening shows you care for people and is a critical component of building trust.
3. Show care and concern – As mentioned above with listening, demonstrating care and concern in relationships is critical to building trust. You can trust people you don’t know based on their expertise, but trust really accelerates when a genuine personal relationship is established. Take the time to truly build a personal relationship with others and you’ll see trust skyrocket.
4. DWYSYWD – Do What You Say You Will Do. Consistent, reliable, and dependable behavior is at the core of building trust. Follow through on commitments. Keep your promises. Be on time. Meet deadlines. It sounds simple enough, but unfortunately these commonsense basics are often the very behaviors we neglect the most. DWYSYWD and trust will blossom.
5. Admit your mistakes – Combined with number 4, admitting your mistakes is one of the most high-powered, trust-building behaviors you can use. Why is that? It shows your sense of humility and authenticity when you own up to your mistakes. It demonstrates to people that you are secure in yourself and you respect others enough to be up front and honest. Showing a little vulnerability goes a long way in building trust.
I’m not suggesting you use these behaviors in a manipulative fashion in order to further your own selfish agenda. Too many crooked politicians, televangelists, and corporate barons have already laid claim to that tactic. However, for people genuinely interested in building trust, these five behaviors can supercharge your relationships to new and higher levels.
What are your thoughts? Are there other behaviors you’ would add to this list to rapidly build trust? Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.
You’ve done a fine job pointing out how the saying is wrong when it comes to creating trust – it can be done quickly. The other side of the saying, however, is also not quite right. Trust can’t always be destroyed in a moment.
It’s not a function of time; it’s a function of intensity. If trust could be destroyed in a moment, then battered women would leave their battering husbands at the first slap.They don’t. The reason they don’t is that they have built up huge amounts of trust over time, and it takes an equal amount of distrustful behavior to overcome it.
That may not be the best example, but consider this. If Amazon screws up my order, I have no trouble instantly saying, “I don’t trust Amazon to do such and so.” But note, the trust I have in Amazon doesn’t go terribly deep and rich. By contrast, if my good friend screws up on ordering a book from Amazon for me, I don’t lose hardly any trust in my friend – because it was so deep to begin with.
Gaining and losing trust are both far more about quality of connection than about the passage of time.
Great point Charlie. When there isn’t a deep level of trust to start with, it can certainly be destroyed easily, but when strong bonds of trust exist, it can endure through the most challenging of circumstances.
I appreciate you taking the time to add your expertise. Enjoy your holiday weekend!
I just finished reading all the comments posted in reply to this article. I must say that I cannot stand by and not address the first example you chose to give. Just because a battered woman/man stays with their abuser has nothing to do with trust. It has everything to do with survival, whether it was just one slap or 100. Please do not minimize domestic violence. I understand the point you were trying to make and you’re right not the best example.
Reblogged this on Movers, Shakers, Leadership Makers.
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Awesome! True vulnerability is important.
Thank you sharing this Randy.
I have spoken of vulnerability often, especially in light of recent suicides and poor behavior by young people. The young really appreciate transparency (vulnerability). They appreciate that adults, particularly older adults, still have areas in need of improvement.
Being willing to admit our mistakes helps them understand that no one gets everything right and expresses that it’s okay to not be perfect or knowledgeable of everything. Learning is a lifetime process.
It’s great when we acknowledge that they are correct, especially when we are not. It does happen. This teaches them that we do care, listen and respect them. I have learned much from my youth. They motivate me. They challenge me to live a life of high, ethical standard. If my behavior doesn’t line up with what I have said to them, they check me. I receive that correction and apologize.
Trust is precious. You are definitely right about its abuse in various arenas – politics, religion, corporate, government, and others. Each of us can make a difference with our actions.
Just imagine if everyone decided to employ this! Hmmm!
Thank you for your wonderful comments. I agree that the youth in our society can teach us many valuable lessons, and when we view ourselves as role models for them (which you clearly do), it inspires us to be the best people we can be.
Spot on points, Randy. Trust does involve risk. We need to extend our trust but then, after several times of being taken advantage of, our trust recedes. The time it takes to re-build that trust is enormous and, maybe, impossible. Point 4 becomes even more important in these cases.
We need to be open to extending our trust and, when the timing is right, re-extending it when trust failed.
Thanks for your comments Jon. You highlight the important point about being judicious in how & when we extend trust. I’ve been working on a 4×4 grid to help explain that concept that I look forward to sharing in a future post.
Trust is the most important thing in ANY relationship; personal or professional. This is a great list. Listening without judgement is probably one of the most important out of all these, lots of people have trouble listening as it is, listening without judgement is difficult for them. I have been told I am a great listener myself, but I do have an issue with trust. All things I could work on myself. Great post!
Thanks for your input! On the surface it seems like “listening” would be one of the easiest things to do, but in reality it takes a lot of work to be a good listener! It takes practice to be in the moment and suspend the urge to judge/reply/debate/question, etc. It’s something we all need to keep working at improving!
Randy, this is a great list: they’re all absolutely powerful trust-builders. Especially, take #3. People can smell insincerity from a mile away. While it’s true that a talented manipulator can, indeed, trick a fair number of people for a short time, that kind of thing is hard to get away with for very long.
I’d add one more, which is to let people see you being caring/kind to a third party. That has a powerful effect – especially if they see you helping or being nice to someone who they know cannot return the gesture. For instance, observing how a powerful person treats a waiter, valet, etc can tell you a lot about the person’s character. The tie from character to trustworthiness is strong and direct.
Again, as you state in your post, this has to come from a place of sincerity. If they know they’re performing for an audience, well, all bets are off.
Hi Ted! Thanks so much for your comments. I agree with you completely about your addition of “being caring.” In fact, just the other day I mentioned to my wife that the way people treat those in service positions (waiters, valets, etc.) shows a lot about their character.
Love this statement because it’s truer than true…..
While it’s true that a talented manipulator can, indeed, trick a fair number of people for a short time, that kind of thing is hard to get away with for very long.
These would still take time, because a few of these require you, the leader, to act in a situation where you can listen without judgement, for (a crude) example. You cannot hound someone and say, “I’ll listen, talk to me about deep-seeded personal issues!” when all your employee asked is if he could grab you a cup of coffee because he’s out going on a walk.
Another way to gain insight into your employees’ psyche, to learn about what makes them tick, to determine how they feel about you, you can use one of our ready-to-launch, FREE, online survey: http://leadchangegroup.com/3-warning-signs-for-responsible-leaders/
I totally agree with your five points pertaining to gaining trust, but must add it does take time and patience. Just to give a valuable example; we live at the foot of a mountain in South Africa, where we have a few african wild cats. It took me upto 18 months with a lot of patience and care, to get these wild cats used to our presence in the way of trust. One of these wild cats now play with our dog and even sleeps with my wife and I on our bed at night. This proves the fact that one can gain the trust of another if one is prepared to do what is right in the eyes of that person. If one can get it right with wild animals, then anyone can get it right with another person. Trust gains respect and respect gains an unbreakable friendship. Another wild cat is already gaining trust through our time, patience and care. One of these days my wife and I will have to sleep on the floor, because it seems wild cats love the warmth of a bed. The point of trust I also proved when I sat in a glass cage full of snakes a few years back, where the snakes became attached to me leaving people amaized of what trust can do.
Thanks for your comments Charles. Your story illustrates the important role that time and patience plays in developing strong bonds of trust.
On trust: 1) I relate Dr Covey’s Emotional “Bank Account” discussions in his books and talks. 2) Also related to story of Who gave more the Rich man or the beggar. Who trusted more the tycoon trusting you with $20 or the person with $20 bucks to their name lending you $5? 3) Other factors are considered prior to trust: a) Safety nets / warranties b) Fair judicial system to help keep the other honest 4) Trust and urgency of action play with each other AND Finally Greatest trust taking a drink from you orange soda bottle without wiping off the opening first. ..
Hi Daniel. I love the example of the soda bottle…that’s the ultimate expression of trust! 😉
I also identify with the concept of an emotional bank account and the same idea applies to trust.
Thanks for your comments!
I resonate with all those but would make a cautionary addition to the “bank account” concept of Dr Covey. When it comes to trust, there is often a paradoxical component at work.
For example, if I choose to trust you and you respond positively, I haven’t “drawn down” on your account – you’ve added to it. In fact, in some ways the metaphor of muscle-building is better; the more you exercise, you don’t “draw down” on your reservoir of strength, you get stronger. It’s in some ways a “use it or lose it” phenomenon, not a savings bank metaphor.
Great distinction Charlie. I like the muscle building metaphor for the way it calls our attention to constantly building those trust muscles.
Thanks for adding your wisdom to the discussion.