Building Trust

There are many characteristics that are important in building a productive, successful career and life. But none of them is more important than gaining and keeping other people’s trust.

Why? Because when other people trust you, they are more willing to help you, to listen to your ideas, to accept your opinions, to respect your judgment, and to follow your lead. These are the ingredients that contribute to productivity and success.

Without this kind of trust, you’re essentially limited to what you can do on your own, plus whatever you can “con” other people into doing for you. (Whatever these ingredients may yield is something I leave to your imagination.)

One reason trust is so valuable and useful is that you cannot inherit it, buy it, borrow it (for long), or counterfeit it. The only way to gain other people’s trust is to earn it. And once you have it, it will help you go a long way.

Here are a few of the best ways to earn trust, and to keep it:


The foundation of trust is honesty: working and living the truth, putting your time and effort into whatever you care about.

While honesty certainly describes a law-abiding person, the concept here goes farther. With regard to trust, honesty also includes personal “authenticity:” the willingness to share who you are, what you think and feel, your motivations, and the goals you are pursuing.

Most people can sense this personal honesty in another person, and when they do so they instinctively respond with a measure of trust. 


People naturally withhold their trust from strangers. That’s baked into our DNA. But as individuals get to know each other and feel a deepening level of personal closeness, they just as naturally begin to give each other some of their trust.

Closeness often develops over long months and years of knowing each other. But sometimes you can accelerate this process, and more quickly become eligible to earn the other person’s trust.

Words and Deeds

You don’t necessarily have to behave like a hero to win people’s trust, but your words and your deeds must align. For example, if you promise something, to earn trust you must deliver it. If you’re not sure you can deliver, it’s a trust-breaking behavior to promise you will.

Even without words, to earn more trust your actions must be consistent with each other. In particular, certain behaviors demonstrated consistently over weeks, months, and years tend to earn people’s trust. These include:

  • Integrity: behaving in accordance with moral principles is a proven way to establish that you’re worthy of other people’s trust.
  • Respect: for yourself conveys to others that you feel proud of who you are, for others conveys that you are someone who will not abuse others’ trust.
  • Loyalty: a powerful way to make people feel safe in your presence and on your team.
  • Fairness: another form of consistent behavior that helps convince people to feel comfortable and trusting with you.
  • Giving and sharing credit: When others deserve it, (and sometimes even when they don’t), giving and sharing credit for successes helps people feel that you’re worthy of their trust.
  • Accountability: accepting credit for your good choices, actions, and results, as well as blame for your bad ones is a powerful trust-building behavior pattern. Of course, accepting the credit you deserve is the easy part. Accepting responsibility when things go wrong is the more difficult aspect of this behavior, and the one that builds more trust.


The way you interact with others can be helpful or harmful to your efforts to build trust.

  • To the extent you easily offer your trust to others, they will feel better about trusting you.
  • Transparency is a great builder of trust. The more openly you behave with others, showing your feelings and saying what’s on your mind, the more clearly people can see you’re worthy of trust.
  • Humility tends to nurture other’s readiness to trust you, bragging tends to poison it.


Although you – along with everyone else – have many things on your mind pretty much all the time, you build more trust when you are fully present with other people. You show your presence by listening to them with your full attention, making them your top priority when you’re with them, and giving them your best efforts and ideas when you’re responding to their concerns.

Demonstrating your full presence earns the trust of other people. Anything less than this significantly degrades the level of trust between you and them.

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