Trust is a crucial factor in any relationship, whether it's personal or professional. It can make or break a deal, a friendship, or even a marriage. Building trust happens slowly over time, but breaking trust can happen in an instant.
Trust builders enhance relationships by creating positive, productive environments where everyone feels valued and respected. Trust breakers damage relationships by creating negative, sometimes hostile, environments where everyone feels wary and resentful. It’s important to always be mindful of how we interact with others and how we affect their levels of trust in us.
Here are five things that build, or break, trust. The choice is truly yours – do you want to be a trust builder or a trust breaker?
Trust Builder: Honesty is the foundation of trust. Only make promises you can keep and consistently follow through with your commitments. Always be truthful and transparent in your words and actions, even when the conversation is difficult. Honesty is a two-way street. When you’re open and transparent with others, others will feel comfortable being open and transparent with you.
Trust Breaker: Dishonesty is the quickest way to break trust with others. Lying damages not only your relationships, but also your reputation. When someone doesn’t follow through on their promises, word spreads like wildfire. It creates a domino effect of suspicion and has a large impact on the overall productivity of your team.
Trust Builder: Do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it. And yes, that includes the things you don’t necessarily love doing. If you are reliable, others will confidently know they can count on you. It creates a culture of consistency from top to bottom.
Trust Breaker: If you are unreliable, it goes without saying that others will lose confidence and trust in you. They will doubt your abilities and doubt your commitment. Have you ever had a meeting with someone who was late, or simply didn’t show up at all? Did you trust that they would show up on time for your next scheduled meeting?
Trust Builder: It’s impossible to trust someone you don’t respect, and it’s impossible for someone to trust you if they don’t respect you. Treat others with dignity and courtesy. Always value someone’s opinions and feelings, even when they differ from yours. Respect also involves respecting someone’s time, efforts, and boundaries.
Trust Breaker: A disregard for someone’s opinions and feelings, even if they are valid and reasonable, is the quickest way to show disrespect. Wasting time, invading privacy, and crossing boundaries will also lead to a breakdown in trust.
Trust Builder: Sympathy is telling someone it looks difficult to walk in their shoes, but empathy is actually putting their shoes on and walking in them yourself. It means taking time to truly understand how someone’s feeling. Offer assistance and feedback when it’s appropriate and be there as a sounding board when people need it the most.
Trust Breaker: Imagine being absent, discouraging, or indifferent when others need you. Not only will they not trust you, they won’t feel comfortable opening up to you. In the end, a lack of empathy leads to a breakdown in the relationship.
Trust Builder: Maintain flexibility and adaptability to changing situations and perspectives. Unexpected things happen – both to you and to your team. Be open-minded when it comes to change and partner with others to brainstorm alternative ways to navigate the road ahead.
Trust Breaker: It’s natural to have “those days” when you feel closed-minded to change. It could be that you spilled your morning coffee, you were thrown a curveball from corporate, or maybe you just didn’t quite get your full 8 hours of sleep. If you’re unwilling to be flexible, it closes off the ideas and perspectives of others. They won’t want to “run something by you” because they’ll already know what you’re going to say (and not in a positive way).
How can you repair trust?
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we may unintentionally be a trust breaker. Maybe we forgot an important meeting, made a careless comment, or failed to deliver on a project. When that happens, follow your vowels – AEIOU:
- Avoid making excuses – take full responsibility for the trust breaker.
- Explain what, how, and why it happened.
- Implement a solution or a plan that will prevent it from happening again.
- Offer your sincere gratitude for their understanding.
- Uphold the commitment you’ve made for the future.
Seth Godin captured it best when he said, “Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest.” Trust is the foundation for success and isn’t something that can be taken for granted. Building it takes a strong, consistent commitment. It isn’t always easy, but trust me, it's worth it!