Trust is the most essential foundation of any relationship. In an organization, trust is fundamental, especially in an environment of duo jobs, telecommuting and virtual teams. The concept seems so simple, but the choices on which you base your trust are more diverse than you might think.

The importance of trust

Confidence. We all know in our hearts what it means to trust someone. And almost everyone knows how it feels when our trust in someone is betrayed. But if someone asked us to define trust, we would probably find it difficult, if not impossible. At first glance, the concept of trust seems fairly simple and straightforward, but when pressed for a precise definition, trust suddenly becomes elusive and complicated. Why is it that we trust one person and not another? And how do we behave toward someone we trust versus someone we don’t?

Regardless of the definition of trust, everyone knows that in the absence of trust, even the most basic relationships between people fail. Trust is the prerequisite for entering into a friendship, partnership or business agreement. In short, trust is a basic ingredient in virtually every relationship regardless of the private or business nature of the relationship.

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.
Ernest Hemingway

The relationship between trust and distrust

It is interesting to know on what basis we express our trust or distrust in others. The yardstick we use for that is 4-fold.

First of all, the lack of control. When we trust someone we tend to give that person considerable latitude to act as they see fit without control. Ranging from claims not being checked, to not checking timesheets.

Our benevolence, toward the person we trust is evidenced by actions we take. It is then about meeting that other person’s needs without expecting anything directly in return. For example, working overtime without declaring it or taking over an appointment to relieve the other person. This proactive mode of giving is usually based on reciprocity. However, if we do not trust someone, we are unlikely to take actions that will benefit the other person. For example, we only pass on useful information if it will benefit ourselves. The relationship usually does not go beyond what our formal obligation or roles require of us.

The third element is about openness. When we trust someone we feel little need to withhold information. We are open about all kinds of things. Share good and promising ideas and also dare to show our “worse” side. But if we don’t trust this person the shutters will close immediately. We keep our personal feelings to ourselves and we choose to share neutral information. Good ideas are shielded for fear that others will run with them or may not agree with us.

The last one is about the risk taking. When we trust someone we are almost certain that this person will not disappoint or hurt us. We give this person the trust to, for example, make a promise or a decision on our behalf, without having to ask for prior permission. Or we share information that the other person might later use against us. We simply believe that the other person will not take advantage of our vulnerability. At the first signs of distrust, we immediately apply a protective strategy. We withhold information that can be used against us or verify that the other person has fulfilled their obligations before completing our own part of the obligation.

So what influences the degree of our trust?

Several factors play a role: our personal relationship with confidence and self-esteem, what is the history or experience with that other person, how do we estimate the skill of the other in order to hold or represent something important to us, to what extent is the other a like-minded, what is the
relationship between me and the other and what is the
within the organization regarding trust. With a few tips, you can start (out) building your trusting relationship with another person.

6 tips for building and perpetuating trust

Building trust in hard work and requires effort from both parties. You need each other and to know what the other needs from you you need to have a good conversation on a regular basis.

  1. Act with integrity, ‘walk the talk’: make sure what you say and do is in line with what you really believe in.
  2. Discuss difficult issues: avoidance is seen by others as less honest and raises doubts about what else you have to hide.
  3. Set high expectations: by setting high expectations you are implicitly saying that you believe the other person can and will deliver.
  4. Judge on content and not on image: others feel it immediately when only image plays a role, this is a form of disrespect to their qualities. You are more likely to harvest distrust than trust.
  5. Listen: people find it hard to trust another person who is not listening to them. How can you act in the best interest of another if you don’t know what that interest is?
  6. Protect the interest of those who are not there: if you stand up for a third party, the person across from you will know that you are doing the same for his interest next time. This prevents a “gossip culture.

Learn more? Watch: The Leader in You!