Relationship Trust

The second article in my “trust” series is focused on relationships. The first one – Self-Trust – focused on the very important issues of credibility, self-respect and trusting yourself.

In relationships, trust is established through one’s consistent behavior. Actions and non-verbal communication matter much more than words — it’s not what you say, it’s what you do that counts. Consistent and reliable behaviors are building blocks for creating relational trust — a foundation that promotes honest conversation and genuine understanding.

Personal credibility is key to trust between two people. It’s about who you really are, not who you pretend to be. The ancient maxim, “Know thyself,” is essential before others can know who you really are.


Establish a trust bank account into which you make deposits and from which you make withdrawals. Unfortunately, withdrawals are often larger than deposits because we don’t always know the significance of events to another person. Some withdrawals may be so impactful they wipe out the entire account.

Warren Buffet famously said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” When you are trying to build trust, understand what matters to the other person. Look at every interaction with a person as a trust moment.

Here are key principles* that build trusting relationships:

  1. Straight talk. Your communication should be honest, forthcoming and have integrity. Tell the truth and let people know where you stand. Leave a good impression.
  2. Respect. Behave in ways that demonstrate respect, kindness, care and civility with everyone.
  3. Transparency. Be clear, open, genuine and truthful. Have no hidden agendas.
  4. Restitution. Repairing a mistake means more than simply apologizing. Take quick action to correct the mistake whenever possible.
  5. Loyalty. Give credit to others freely and generously. Speak about others as if they were there.
  6. Results. Establish a track record of accomplishments. Get the right things done and make no excuses for errors.
  7. Learn. Continuously improve and learn from mistakes. Thank people for feedback.
  8. Reality. Acknowledge and address the tough stuff directly. Don’t bury your head in the sand.
  9. Expectations. Create a shared vision and agreement in advance when establishing a relationship. Discuss and validate agreements; renegotiate if needed.
  10. Accountability. Keep your commitments and hold yourself accountable if things go wrong. Blaming others is not appropriate.
  11. Listen. Understand before you speak. Listen with your ears, your mind and your heart. Understand what matters most to the other person by putting yourself in their place.
  12. Commitments. Do not make a promise that you can’t keep; deliver what you say you are going to do.

These principles can be applied to any relationship — peers, friends, children, spouse or colleagues. You can inspire trust by extending it to others and don’t withhold trust just because it may involve some risk. Learn how to interact with others in consistent ways that inspire trust and avoid actions that prevent or damage it.

* Stephen M. R. Covey, “The Speed of Trust.”