What is Trust?

Trust is the foundation and the glue in all human relationships. Without trust, you are alone in a hostile world.  You stay small and anxious and can achieve little. With trust, you can expand and love and be your best self – you can lead a happy and productive life.

Trust has been fundamental to our survival as a species. Humans have relied on each other for thousands, if not millions of years. We would not have become the dominant animal on the planet if we didn’t have a long-standing and pervasive bedrock of trust and cooperation.

When you think of the word ‘trust,’ words like honesty, respect and reciprocity follow. We base trusting relationships on an unspoken agreement that we will respect and take care of each other no matter what. In the dim distant past, trust assumed that you wouldn’t steal my food or burn my house down if I was off hunting woolly mammoth and not there to defend them. In 21st century terms, trust implies that you will treat people with kindness and respect and honor your commitment.

Why it’s Important

Studies have shown that people who trust and are trustworthy are happier in their personal and professional lives. They are calmer, more successful and productive. Their relationships are sound and are better able to withstand adversity.

Trust makes every aspect of life easier – at home or in the office. On the sporting field, trust is vital, or the team just won’t function. Think of how much advertising money goes into building ‘a brand that people can trust.’ Trust is a gateway to contentment, acceptance, and safety.

There are lots of straightforward ways you can build or increase trust right now.

Ten Ways to Build Trust

1 – Honesty

Nothing kills any kind of relationship, personal or business, like secrets. Secrets are corrosive and add a layer of anxiety to relationships that make it impossible for them to grow and develop.

Studies show that for many people, lying is part of their everyday behavior. People lie in one in five of their interactions, rising to 64% of deep betrayals of trust involving close partners. The flip side of this is that people say that trust and betrayal are the most important issues for couples.

Related to honesty is openness. If people know you are not hiding anything, they are more likely to trust you. Similarly, it’s always better for you to tell the truth. You can deal with problems whatever the situation and people will trust you not to cover up or gloss over things.

2 – Trust Yourself

How can you expect others to trust you if you don’t trust yourself? It’s worth investing the time in really improving your relationship with yourself.  Do the self-work and be clear about your mindset, your values and the things you find a struggle.

What assumptions and internal messages are your thoughts and behaviors patterned around? Where do they come from, and are they still serving your best interests? Adjust your mindset to positivity – lack of self-trust comes from self-doubt. Be kind to yourself – prioritize positive self-care in your life and learn to value your experience and your intuition.

3 – Communication

Clear, open communication is fundamental to building and maintaining trust.  Make sure everyone knows what you expect and what agreements you have made. Let your colleagues, staff and loved ones know what’s going on as early as possible and share information. Don’t hide things or try to cover up or fix things in silence.

Similarly, if you make a mistake, model the behavior you want to see in others and admit it. If people see you own your mistakes, that builds a bond of connection and trust. They know you’re human and it’s okay to be vulnerable.

4 – Commitments

In all your relationships, it is vital that you keep your promises. If you say you are going to do something, then you need to do it, and you need to follow through. If you can’t or don’t want to do something, learn to say no politely and firmly. And if something genuinely comes up that means you won’t be able to make your commitment, communicate this as early as possible so you can reschedule or reprioritize.

5 – Be Kind

Being kind to yourself and others not only makes life better, but it also builds trust. Being kind may not be a topic usually discussed under the heading of trust, but it should be. If you aren’t kind to yourself and others, it’s almost impossible to build trust.

  • Give people the benefit of the doubt and don’t leap to judgment.
  • Stay calm in the face of bad behavior or bad news. Being quick to fly off the handle only makes others feel they can’t be themselves around you.
  • Show you’re interested in the other person; find points of connection.
  • Don’t gossip, triangulate or talk about people behind their back.
  • Have reasonable, firm boundaries. Being kind doesn’t mean you’re a pushover or that you let people take advantage of you. But you need to be kind to yourself and learn how to say no positively.
  • If you know your self-worth, you will be less vulnerable to people who might betray you or let you down.
  • Forgive yourself for past mistakes. Making mistakes is the way humans learn and grow. Don’t dwell on the past, but look to the future with hope and openness.

6 – Listen

Listen intently to people, whether you’re talking to a friend or in a meeting. Listen and respond to what they’re saying and don’t interject with a pre-planned speech. It helps to minimize distractions, so put your phone away and don’t put it on the table. Look at the person while they’re speaking. Be available for conversations and be open to hearing what people are saying.  If others feel you never listen, they will eventually give up. They won’t trust you to take them or their concerns seriously.

7 – Be Consistent

Become known as a person who can be relied on to do what you promise. Make sure you’re on time for meetings or a movie date. If you threaten your misbehaving child with no internet for a week, then follow through with the punishment. If you are consistent in your actions, you’re signaling to other people involved that they are a priority for you. And consistency is rewarded – in the workplace with greater responsibility (and promotion) and in personal relationships with a relaxed affection and trust.

8 – Pay Attention To the Small Things

At the risk of sounding like an inspirational poster, the small things genuinely are important. If you pay attention to the small things, you build a bedrock of trust with people. They’ll know they can count on you for the big things in life simply because they can trust you to do the little things.

Things that may seem small to you in the bigger context can have great significance for people. Make it a priority to remember people’s names, say thank you and smile, and remember to buy milk on the way home without being asked. At the office say good morning or good night to your colleagues and team members. Say thank you to the cleaning staff. You build trust on these small blocks of connection and mutual regard and support.

9 – Give It Time

To build healthy and trusting relationships takes time and patience. Trust is not a thing that can be ‘done and dusted’ and ticked off the list. Trust requires maintenance.

If you find it difficult to trust people or worry that they will not do as you asked, try building trust in small steps and be kind to yourself. Choose one or two things from this list that don’t seem too risky. Focus on these first and build from there. Similarly earning trust takes time. You need to demonstrate that you are trustworthy not just once, but over and over again.

The good news is that trust is incremental – the more you demonstrate reliability, consistency and commitment, the more trustworthy you become.

10 – Trust Other People

Even if you’ve had problems in the past, nothing will inspire trust like offering it yourself. If people feel valued, understood and respected, they will respond in kind. You’ll have a positive feedback loop that will incrementally grow from the mutual trust between individuals and groups. It doesn’t matter if it’s a team, a couple, a family or a friendship group.

If you’ve been hurt or let down in the past, trusting might seem a risky business. But trust is the bedrock of all relationships. The more you trust and demonstrate trustworthiness, the easier it will become to trust further. Be known as a person of integrity and honesty, and you’ll find reward with positive, supportive relationships.

Final Thoughts

Building trust in yourself and others is a lifelong investment that will reap increased contentment, happiness, and fulfillment throughout your world. We are all interconnected, dependent on the integrity and generosity of those around us.  The more you can see yourself at the center of a wide and expanding network of friends, family, team-mates, and colleagues, the easier it will be to become a lighthouse of trust. You’ll begin to see the positive influence of your self-trust and trustworthiness spread and improve the lives of others in ways you could never have imagined.