The ability to build trust is a competency of high emotional intelligence. Being trustworthy means to be ethical when working with and relating to others. It means doing the right thing even when you know no one will find out. When you are a trust builder, others have confidence that your actions are consistent with your words and know that you have their best interest at heart — not only your own. If you are a trust builder, you demonstrate respect for others’ experiences, understand the hurt that deceitfulness can cause, and bring more value to relationships than pain.
Those who are strong in this competency tend to share information about themselves and don’t keep secrets. They treat others consistently and with respect, and maintain high standards of personal integrity. They maintain a lifestyle that they don’t have to hide from others. When you hear them talk about something, you know that their actions will match up with their words, and you can count on them to deliver on their promises and commitments.
Those who aren’t so strong in this competency aren’t able to build open, candid, trusting relationships. They’ve most likely developed a reputation for lacking integrity, and often make promises that they do not keep. They will do what serves them best even if it means undermining another person to get what they want. They lie about little things, and lie about big things. If you ask them what their values are, you may get the ‘deer in the headlights’ look, as they often have troubles defining their standards in the name of being ‘open-minded’ or ‘non-judgmental’. They tend to blame others for their mistakes and withhold information to keep them out of ‘trouble.’
“Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest.” –Seth Godin
It’s impossible to lead without being able to build trust. When others begin to doubt you, they will think twice about following you and question whether or not you are worth teaming up with. They will mistrust your ideas and direction, and worry that you may be putting YOUR best interests before their own.
It’s true that it takes a long time to build trust but only an instant to destroy it. One self-centered lie or act of deceit can ruin how others view you for days and months to come.
Why are some trust breakers? For many, the practice of deceit stems from deep-rooted fears…fear of being accepted, fear of being known, fear of punishment, fear of self, fear of being held to expectations, fear of letting others down, fear of being disliked, fear of being an disappointment…the list goes on and on. The thing is, we all have fears. We all want to be liked and accepted and valuable in others’ eyes. But the difference between trust builders and trust breakers is that the trust builders face their fears by understanding that honesty and authenticity are what bring about those results, where trust breakers think dishonesty will get them there. But a life of deceit won’t bring about deep, meaningful relationships that we all desire.
“It is true that integrity alone won’t make you a leader, but without integrity you will never be one.” — Zig Ziglar
Not sure if you’re a trust builder or a trust breaker?
Look over these statements, and give yourself a score for each, using this scale: 1= Always, 2=Almost always 3=Occasionally 4=Almost never 5=Never
- I share my thoughts, feelings and decision-making rationale.
- I am able to establish trusting relationships.
- I am open to others’ ideas and willing to be influenced by others.
- I treat people with respect.
- I am able to influence others as a result of talking with them.
- I have developed a reputation for integrity.
- I treat all people fairly.
- I say what I believe rather than what I think people want to hear.
- I strive to behave consistently with my expressed beliefs and values.
- I practice what I preach.
- I focus on solving problems rather than blaming or hiding.
- I admit my mistakes.
- I deliver on promises and commitments.
- I ask others for their opinions.
- I listen to people’s thoughts, feelings, and concerns, and am able to feel empathy.
- I solicit feedback about my performance.
- I acknowledge the contributions and worth of others.
- When there is a problem, I work directly with those involved to resolve it.
- I treat people consistently.
- I follow through on the things I commit to do, even if it’s not convenient for me.
Now, add up your scores and see where you land, below:
1-20 – Your ability to build trust is high
21-40 – Your ability to build trust is moderately high
41-60 – Your ability to build trust is moderate
61-80 – Your ability to build trust has room for improvement
81-100 – Your ability to build trust needs serious improvement
“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” –Stephen R. Covey
If your ability to build trust needs some work, take heart. We are talking about behavior–what you do, not who you are. Behaviors can be changed. If you would like to shift from being a trust breaker to a trust builder, here are some developmental tips to try:
- Team up with an emotional intelligence coach to help you set goals and hold you accountable as you begin this journey.
- Practice listening to others in a way that allows you to know what’s on their minds and in their hearts.
- Always deliver on your commitments. No excuses. If you are one who tends to promise then cancel –stop making the promises in the first place.
- Be emotionally available to those around you — share the things in your heart without stretching the truth to make yourself look good.
- Never knowingly mislead or lie. If you catch yourself doing it — stop and admit the truth. It’s so very freeing and you’ll find people respect you when you admit it in the moment.
- Articulate your values to those around you and ask them if your actions match up.
- Admit your mistakes without blame or shame.
- Get in the habit of putting others’ needs in front of your own.
- Check to see if what you do in secret matches up to your public persona — if not, in which arena are you not being true? Then ask yourself why. Just being aware of the gap is a good start to changing behaviors.
- Forgive yourself of past mistakes. If you’ve spent a lifetime lying, it’s never too late to come clean and make a fresh start.
The next time you find yourself in a situation where you’re not sure if you should be honest or not — keep this in mind:
“For every good reason there is to lie, there is a better reason to tell the truth.” — Bo Bennett
Putting aside your patterns of lying, deceiving and hiding, and stepping into the brave new world of integrity will open up the doors of opportunity for stronger, healthier relationships. Yes, it’s going to take some work and effort. It may feel uncomfortable to begin to let others truly know you. You may face rejection and at times, disappoint people. But though it’s can be a difficult process to shift behaviors, it’s worth it. Becoming someone others can trust will help you develop the connection, both at work and in your personal life, that you need and desire.