Trust: The Single Most Important Ingredient In Any Relationship

No matter what your politics are, most people would agree that we have a huge national deficit. And most people would agree that we’re either in a recession or headed for one.

That’s not good news, financially speaking.

But we have an even larger emotional deficit and recession on our hands. This deficit-recession threatens all of our relationships on and off the job. It is a deficit in trust.

And left to rot, our world, our democracy, our companies, our teams, our marriages, and our friendships are all in danger of extinction.

That’s why I tell my leadership coaching clients, “Without communication there is no relationship. Without respect there is no love. Without trust there is no reason to continue.”

Well I’m here to tell you how to reverse the trust deficit and recession.

Now I grant you that’s not easy. As educator Sissela Bok says so well, “Trust and integrity are precious resources, easily squandered, hard to regain.”

In other words, trust can take a long time to build but only a second to destroy it. And once it’s been destroyed, it can take an even longer time to re-build it.

Here are a few tips for putting more trust in your relationships or re-building some of the trust you’ve lost.

►1. You must build trust on the intention level.

There’s more to a good, healthy, trusting relationship than simply saying “I trust him” or “I just don’t trust her.” Trust is more complex than that. It has three levels and you may or may not trust someone depending on those three levels.

First, there is the level of intentions. You can trust that someone’s intentions are good, that they mean well, that they have your best interests at heart. Or you can feel just the opposite, that the other person’s intentions are selfish and suspicious.

I’m sure you know plenty of people whose intentions are good, but you still can’t trust them. They mean well but the results they produce leave a lot to be desired. I could name names in my family and in the wide world of politics, religion, sports, the media, and Hollywood, but I’ll let you fill in the blanks with your own names.

Tip: Give some thought about the other person’s intentions before you automatically trust them. And if you’re not sure about their intentions, ask!

► 2. You must build trust on the judgment level.

You might be able to trust someone’s intentions, but in order to really trust them, you must also be able to trust their judgment. You must be able to see them as someone who is knowledgeable, intelligent, discerning, wise, ethical, and filled with common sense … and as a result makes good decisions.

Again, I’m sure you know people with hearts of gold, filled with good intentions, but they’re stupid. They make one bad decision after another. You can’t trust them because you can’t trust their judgment skills.

That’s why I often tell people such things as “Don’t take financial advice from people who are broke.” You can’t trust their judgment.

Or don’t let some stuck-in-their-comfort-zone person talk you out of your dreams just because they’ve never tried it before or ever tried anything new themselves. You can’t trust their judgment.

And that’s why I don’t trust a lot of Washington politicians who try to tell us how to run our businesses, but they themselves have never had a job or run a business. They simply do not have the real-world experience to make good, healthy, positive decisions in that area.

Tip: Before you automatically give your trust to someone, check out their track record. How wise and effective have their judgments been in the past? Of course, people can learn and change, but someone’s history is often a very good predictor of what you can expect from them in the future.

► 3. You must build trust on the behavior level.

Some people do all right on the first two levels. You can trust their good intentions. You can trust their judgment as being sound. But you can’t trust their behavior to be what is needed. In fact, if you take a moment to think, I’m sure several people will come to your mind that fit into that category.

Some people are all talk and no action. You can’t trust them to follow through.

Other people are poor planners. They can’t see the steps they have to take to reach their goal and so they’re stuck where they’re at. As the old saying goes, when they fail to plan, they plan to fail. It’s hard to trust people like that.

Still others tend to be blamers. When things don’t go right, instead of being accountable or taking responsibility to get back on track, they blame someone or something for their lack of success. That’s not an attractive trust-building feature to see in anyone.

There are any number of lousy, ineffective behaviors that people might exhibit, all of which makes them poor candidates for your trust. It’s better to be aware of those things in advance rather than regret your misplaced trust in the future.

Tip: Write down the behaviors in others that earn your trust. And write down the behaviors in others that would destroy your trust in them. With a conscious list like that, you’re much more likely to connect with the right people.

As I continually coach people, “Trust is a must or the relationship will bust.”

I’ll give you some more trust-building ideas in next week’s Tuesday Tip.

And this fall I’ll be offering a five-week live virtual master class on Trust 6.0: How to Transform the Trust Level through Belief, Engagement, Communication, Motivation, Accountability, and Conflict Resolution.

If you’re interested in attending that class, send me an email so I can notify you first when the class will be offered. The enrollment will be strictly limited.