Being Trustworthy Isn’t Building Trust

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“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

I teach and consult on the importance of the following eight values that build trust: honesty, straightforwardness, respect, receptivity, recognition, keeping commitments, seeking excellence and disclosure. When people fail to practice any of them, they make inter-relationship withdrawals. When they live them, they make positive, emotional and social deposits. While we teach the eight values described in greater detail below, many times people wait until almost all of these behaviors are neglected or violated before they do anything about the relationship. 

Here are the eight values, a description of each and advice to consider:

1. Disclosure is the state of openness in which you freely reveal your needs, desires and vulnerabilities. I allow connection and share my feelings, opinions, ideas, and limitations. As I disclose myself, this often helps others put their guard down and leaves nothing to uncertainty and presumption.

Advice: Risk showing people who you are in order to relax their guard, and provide them with clarity about what’s what regarding you.

2. Receptivity is the ability to open to verbal and non-verbal feedback with an open-mind so you truly consider fully what’s being shared. This requires self-awareness and self-management and is more effective than trying to change, fix, heal or convert others, which they don’t generally appreciate.

Advice: Do the counter-intuitive. Seek to understand first without trying to resolve or be understood first.

3. Recognition is the expression of verbal and non-verbal gestures appreciation for gifts, talents, contributions, and assets. Recognition is also appreciating differences, despite when they are difficult to understand or condone. Recognition does not require agreement.

Advice: Look for the good in others, including their differences, and make your appreciation evident and concrete by speaking it often and reassuringly.

4. Straightforwardness is expressing directly and clearly your expectations and asking for what you want without prevarication or begging. Asking people straight-up, “What I want is…” and “Are you willing?” often goes against most of your upbringing as likely you were often punished or criticized for directing stating what you want or expect and asking for a commitment.

Advice: Discover what you want and directly ask for it without demanding. State your expectations firmly and respectfully. Ask for commitments.

5. Keeping Commitments is completing, attending to, or delivering things you’ve committed to do, provide, or be. Intentions equal results means that you can determine your true commitments based on whether you actually deliver what you say you will deliver.

Advice: Pay attention. Notice if you are really committed, then get real with yourself and others. Keep the commitments you make or at minimum, let people know if something has changed and you are dropping any commitments. Do so sparingly. 

6. Respect is making the needs of others as important as your own needs. Respect means you don’t objectify another person for your own gain, either favorably or unfavorably. Respect is unconditional valuing of each person no matter their beliefs, race, creed or other differences.  

Advice: Live by the golden rule. It’s a great equalizer. Live by the platinum rule to do unto others as they would want for themselves. This rule makes highlights your ability to see the other as a separate, equally worthy human being with needs, wants, and experiences of your own. 

7. Seeking Excellence is an indicator of your self-management and commitment to excellence. Mediocrity is so common, we are often impressed when someone seeks excellence. That person is a leader, has presence, goes the extra mile, brings their a-game, and is accepted as someone we can count on for a high degree of completeness and quality.

Advice: Purposely determine to excel and exceed expectations. Underpromise and over-deliver.

8. Honesty is the ability to speak the truth without omission or distortion. Honesty is not cheating, or lying, or stealing or doing anything unethical. Honesty is not the same is disclosing your thoughts, feelings, opinions or ideas. Honest is not being straightforward either. Honesty is being ethical in all things. Even if you’re a person who doesn’t misrepresent your income, or snatch something in a store, can you say you never lie about what you’re feeling, cheat yourself of knowing what you want, steal opportunities to address issues in order to avoid conflict? Most people don’t realize the depth of their inability to be honest.

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”


Advice: Don’t play others and don’t play you. 

Trust is a precious commodity. Cultivate it mindfully, nurture it diligently and guard it vigilantly. It’s the foundation of everything

As published in the column The Extraordinary Workplace in St. Louis Small Business Monthly, July 2013

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