Can I really trust you?

As we interact with people at work and at home, we’re always asking the same question: “Can I trust you?” After all, we don’t want to work with, live with, or even be around people we can’t trust.

So what does it take to trust someone or to be trusted by others? The answer is a bit more complex than you might realize because trust operates and is built and/or destroyed on three levels.

► Level #1: Trusting someone’s intentions.

It’s where trust starts. If you believe the other person’s intentions are good, that they mean well, and truly care about you, you will trust the other person to some degree. But not necessarily all the way.

Nonetheless, good intentions are one essential part of THE TRUST CONNECTION.

One way to do that is to have a genuine interest in the other person’s interests. Indeed, the best salespeople do it all the time. They get to know their customers and prospects. They learn about their likes and dislikes, goals, dreams, pet peeves, hobbies, and hot buttons.

One of my friends demonstrated that when she called her father from the Charlotte Motor Speedway. In amazement, he asked her what she was doing at the race track.

She replied, “As you know, Dad, as a sales manager most of my customers are home builders. Every time we’re together, all they seem to talk about is NASCAR racing. If I’m going to have a chance of beating out my competitors in this market, I’m going to have to be able to participate in conversations that include NASCAR. That’s why I’m here.”

Her interest in her customers’ interests made her a more trusted vendor … much more so than any other salesperson who just walked in the door to get the sale. She learned about their interests and was able to talk to them about those things. Her intentions were good.

When it comes to trusting others, start with a look at his or her intentions. And when it comes to having others trust you, check out your own intentions. Are you really trying to bring about good?

Let me in!

When it comes to trusting others, start with a look at his or her intentions. And when it comes to having others trust you, check out your own intentions. Are you really trying to bring about good?

To increase your trust-building skills, I invite you to my back-by-popular-demand, five-week, interactive, virtual program on THE TRUST CONNECTION: How to Build Stronger, Engaged, Empathic Relationships. We start on September 28, 2023.

► Level #2: Trusting someone’s judgement.

As I mentioned earlier, trust starts at the first level of intentions. The other person means well.

However, that’s not enough to complete THE TRUST CONNECTION. You must also be able to trust their judgment. I’m sure you know some nice people with good intentions, but you can’t trust their judgment when it comes to making wise, solid, healthy choices and decisions. Their judgement stinks.

I see it in politics all the time. Oftentimes a group of politicians means well yet they still invent programs that waste tons of money and do not work. As comedian Groucho Marx put it, “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.”

I also see bad judgment in all kinds of people in our professional and personal lives. It doesn’t mean that those people are necessarily bad, but you simply cannot trust the judgments they make. They seem to lack the wisdom or common sense that makes it possible to trust them in certain areas or with certain tasks.

Such was the case with little Maggie. When her mother became sick with the flu and had to stay in bed, Maggie wanted to be a good nurse. She fluffed the pillows and brought a magazine to her mother to read. And then she even showed up with a surprise cup of tea.

“Why, you’re such a sweetheart,” the mother said as she drank the tea. “I didn’t know you even knew how to make tea.”

“Oh yes,” the little girl replied. “I learned by watching you. I put the tea leaves in the teapot and then I put in the water. I boiled it and then I strained it into a cup. But I couldn’t find a strainer, so I used the fly swatter instead.”

“You what?” the mother screamed. The little girl said, “Oh, don’t worry, Mom. I didn’t use the new fly swatter. I used the old one!”

Obviously Maggie had good intentions but poor judgment.

Thus, the second vital element in building a TRUST CONNECTION with others is being able to trust their judgement. You have to feel confident that they have the wisdom to make the right choices rather than the wrong ones.

And the same goes for you. You can’t expect others to trust you, no matter how nice you are, if you keeping making stupid choices.

► Level #3: Trusting someone’s behavior.

You could trust someone’s intentions and you could trust someone’s judgment. But that’s still not enough to build a real TRUST CONNECTION. You also need to be able to trust their behavior. After all, a person could have the best of intentions and make wise judgments, but they may be incapable of doing what needs to be done. You can’t trust them because you can’t trust their behavior.

I’ve seen this happen hundreds of times in my work. People are promoted to positions of leadership because of their technical competence, but many times they don’t have the interpersonal skills to build productive relationships and lead their team members. As a result, they exhibit behaviors than can’t be trusted.

That’s why coaching and training is so critically important and that’s why the best organizations provide those things for their new and existing leaders. They want to equip their people for success.

So what kinds of behaviors build trust between people? I just mentioned competency, being able to perform their tasks effectively.

Another behavior is follow-through, doing what you said you were going to do. Doing anything less than that and making excuses lowers trust.

Still another behavior is straight talk. I can trust straight “yes” and “no” answers, but I can’t trust weasel words like “I’ll try … I’ll see … I’ll think about it … That sounds good … or … I’ll get back to you.” In most cases, people who use weasel words and phrases are difficult to trust because they have no intention of doing any of those things. They’re trying to be polite as they lie.

If you’re wondering if you can trust someone, take a look at how they perform on all three levels of trust. If you’re trying to build trust with others, make sure you come through on all three levels.