Recent events in my life have reminded me about the importance of trust. No matter what relationship you look at, business or personal, trust is the key component of its foundation. No trust, no meaningful relationship; the importance of building trust cannot be underestimated. Nevertheless, trust is not a subject that is taught, or even covered for that matter, in schools. Sure our parents, or elders, can talk about their experiences with the subject as they sum up what they have learned but it is generally abstract and not necessarily relevant to your own situation.
Fortunately research has been made on the subject. In their 2001 best selling book “The trusted advisor”, Charles H. Green, David H. Maister and Robert M. Galford present a simple, but effective, way to understand the dynamics of trust. Through their research the authors of the book have develop the “Trust Equation”. This simple formula covers the important components that dictate whether you will trust someone or not. The equation goes like this:
By increasing the elements in the numerator you increase trust whilst by increasing the denominator you reduce or undermine trust. Although the book was written with business relationships in mind, I have found that it applies to our personal lives as well. But to really understand the formula we need to look at, and understand, all its variables.
Credibility – has to do with whether one can be believed or not. Can one present credentials to support their credibility. Although it is sometimes also referred to as “the words one speaks”, I find it important to consider the other aspects of communication as well. Classical NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) emphasizes that words only make up a small portion of real communication. In his 1994 article, in Anchor Point magazine, Dr. Buzz Johnson claimed that words only make up 7% of communication intonation 38% and body language 55%. Although more recent studies have challenged the accuracy of the results the concept remains valid: words make up a much smaller percentage than intonation and body language. This is why I find that all three components of communication need to be considered. Let’s face it you may have a good story but if you are hesitant when you tell it, I will have a hard time believing you. Therefore intonation and body language are also important components of credibility.
Reliability – Has to do with your actions, can you be depended on to deliver what you promise. In business you can think of things like, being on time or following up and sending the material you promised. In your personal life, it often comes down to you being consequent. Are your kids or partner used to you saying something than doing something else or do they “know” that when you have said something you will not change your mind or soften up and cave in somewhere along the way.
Intimacy – has to do with your ability to connect with people and give them a sense of security. While I trained my fellow consultants I used to tell to develop their observation skills; pick up clues in someone’s office about themselves and their personal lives. This could be things like the diploma that hangs on their wall, which university is it from, perhaps you went to the same university; or a family picture, which enables you to ask about their kids and share your own experiences with children; or a vacation picture skiing and you are an avid skier yourself. Whatever the case, someone’s office generally holds clues about their personal lives and the fact that they are on display gives you permission to bring them into the conversation and explore how you can connect with them; ultimately raising the level of intimacy.
Self-orientation – has to do with where your focus lies, particularly with yourself. Since it is the denominator, the less self oriented you are, the better. You may have scored very well on all the variables above but if your counterpart has a sense that you are only thinking about yourself this will strongly undermine their trust in you. You probably have heard the saying: “The truth in selling is that you succeed more at sales when you stop trying to sell. When all you focus on is helping prospects, they trust you more and buy from you more as well.”[i]
In todays world of scams and politicians trust is hard to come by. It seems that greed, and or the hunger for power, will push people to, and often over, the limits of integrity and morals. People get blinded by the illusion that money and wealth can bring them happiness, and will often sell their souls in the process; only to wake up one day in a big house and an empty life. Money can always buy you “fair weather friends” but it can’t buy you real friendship.