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  • Writer's pictureDr. Pamela Davis

Keys to Building Trust

One of the best representations of trust is the game where an individual stands with his back to another person and falls backwards, trusting that person to catch him. It is sometimes referred to as the "trust fall". This game is used as a team building activity to garner engagement, communication, and ultimately build trust amongst team members.

For me to fall into the arms of someone, it would definitely have to be someone I trusted (and someone I've known for longer than half an hour). My son is nine. He's almost seventy-five pounds and just under five feet tall. He is so excited that he's almost as tall as I am and that he's strong. He thinks that qualifies him to be the catcher in the trust fall. As much as I know he loves me and that he would really want (even try) to catch me, I'm not at all convinced that he can.

This is how trust works - some people are more trusting or gullible than others. It doesn't take much for them to turn their trust over to others. There are other times when trust is not so easy to come by. In these instances, people have been hurt or negatively impacted. They are others who are more selective as to whom they relinquish their trust to. In order to build trust, three components need to be in place: credibility, connection, and consistency.


When you are attempting to gain the trust of an individual or group of people, credibility plays a integral role. We see it all the time with politicians. They lose credibility instantaneously based on their actions, decisions, and deals. For example, credibility can be lost by associating yourself with a person, place, or thing that is not considered upstanding. You can lose credibility for not standing for the right thing and for standing for the wrong thing. On the flipside, credibility goes a long way. Your name and the position you take on certain issues or the platform you promote can work in your favor in the long run. As such, it is important to guard yourself against reckless choices to reduce the risk of tainting your credibility.


If it is trust you are seeking, you have to be able to make connections with people. Connection happens when you share common interests, values, needs, or causes. People want to know that you are relatable. When this happens, it opens up the passageway for them to trust you more readily. I walked into a meeting with an existing partner who knew the value of making connections. Despite the fact he already had a contract with the organization that I worked for, he prepared a presentation with the opening slide being a picture of the city limits sign from my hometown. What a lead in, right? He capitalized on using common ground as a talking piece to begin the meeting. Others in the room undoubtedly associated his connection with me and with knowing my hometown as a means of connecting to leverage the trust of everyone in the room.


A final component to consider when building trust is consistency. Simply put, you must prove to be who you say you are and make good on your promises. There are many examples of failed relationships with parent/child when the parent does not follow-through with visits, trust is lost. Business transactions fail when one party does not consistently fulfill their payment obligation and trust is lost. In organizations, leaders who say one thing and not long after, fail to monitor or hold staff accountable - they lose trust coupons.

These three elements provide a basis for building trust. Ultimately trust takes time. Work to protect your credibility, make connections, and remain consistent as you establish trust with individuals or groups.

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