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Saturday Musings - How to Develop Trust


There is nothing stronger than when you trust a person completely and nothing more devastating when trust is broken. So how do you gain someone’s trust and how do you maintain it?

Both these questions are at the heart of our society as trust is the glue that bonds us all together. Without some level of trust, your relationship with your spouse, children, neighbours, and government would shatter.

From a business perspective, contracts may spell out what each party expects of the other but ultimately, it’s trust that underpins the agreements. Without trust, we won’t have business and society fall into anarchy.

The first thing to realise about trust is like every relationship it’s built upon a solid foundation of truth. I discussed truth in last week’s Saturday musings and you may want to have a read of that article. Assuming you are truthful then how do you build trust?

The fact is, trust takes time to develop. Although it can be instantly lost, it’s rarely, if ever, immediately given. A good way to think about trust is to imagine everyone has a “trust bank account” that you can deposit or withdraw from. The question is, what are you depositing and withdrawing?

The currency is acts of selflessness and selfishness. Every time you act selflessly towards someone you are depositing into your trust account with them. Being selfless is all about focusing on the needs, wants and desires of the other person rather than your own. Conversely, behaving selfishly is about demanding your needs, your desires, and your wants from another person and creates a withdrawal on the trust account between you. 

For example, let’s imagine a husband has agreed with his wife that he would pick up the kids from school each day. For year after year, without fail, he did exactly what he’d said he would do. His wife would trust him completely that the kids would be brought home safely. Over time, he has been building up a positive balance in the trust account on this issue between them.

On the other hand, if the husband picked up the kids “most” days then it’s unlikely there would be a high level of trust. Why is this? Deposits are more often than not small in nature…..while withdrawals are large.

Over the years, I’ve seen personal relationships fail because couples fail to understand this important point. To illustrate this, let’s imagine the husband from the above example, picked up the kids 80% of the time and with every pick-up he is depositing $1 in his wife’s trust account. For every time he forgot to pick them up he’s withdrawing $10.

It doesn’t take long to realise the husband will quickly get into an overdraft situation with his wife. The husband thinks he’s great because he does what he says most of the time…..the wife has a completely different perspective.

The interesting thing about trust is we often develop many trust accounts with people and a big global one as well. For instance, every time the husband picked up the kids he may have been depositing $1 in the “pick the kids” trust account and $0.10 in the global wife trust account.

When the “pick up kids” goes into negative the balance is paid by the “global wife” trust account. Sadly, if the global account goes into overdraft then you end up with fractured relationships that often need a councillor or some other mediator to get involved.

I know the above example is somewhat contrived, but the principles of trust are exactly the same in business. If my business only paid people 80% of the time, then I can assure you my trust account with suppliers would be well and truly into overdraft and lawyers would likely start to get involved!

What normally happens between businesses is they develop trust in one area and then search for other areas they can do business together. The reason for this is the global “trust account” has been continuously deposited into.

Being selfless in your business dealings doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make a profit. Making profit is all about sustainability and a good reward for effort. Being selfless is taking into consideration the other party’s circumstances… legal parlance, this is often known as behaving in “good faith”.

Even as you read this article think of the status of your own “trust accounts” in your business and personal relationships. Do you need to make a bigger effort to be selfless rather than selfish? Maybe it’s time for that phone call to make an apology and get a relationship back on track…..

Have a great weekend.

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