By Barb Ward

It is devastating when you are betrayed by someone you thought you could trust. Unfortunately, no one is immune to these situations. As a result of your experiences, you may have consciously, or unconsciously, built defense mechanisms that make it difficult for you to trust again. What’s more, though you may not realize it, these barriers you have erected could also be keeping you from building the trust you need with others to succeed – both personally and professionally.

Understanding components that enable you to earn and grant trust is paramount for building strong relationships. As a leader, when you engage in relationships from a foundation of trust, you can accomplish work more quickly and easily. As an individual, when you engage in relationships from a foundation of trust, you are able to build deeper, more meaningful connections with others, which leads to greater fulfillment in your life.

As you think about building trust and your own skill at doing so, keep in mind there are two aspects that you should consider simultaneously and in relationship to one another:

  1. What is required for me to trust others?

Each person has a unique personality, personal experiences and preferences that will shape the answer to this question. Based on your unique outlook, you have an inherent tendency along a spectrum of trust. If your experiences include scenarios where trust has been broken and you have been hurt, you may have a stronger tendency to proceed with caution and require trust to be earned over time, rather than granting it without exception. The problem with this scenario is that even when trust has been earned there really are no guarantees. People make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes hurt others. Therefore, trusting anyone to some extent requires a leap of faith.

If you reside on the other side of the spectrum where you extend trust to others with little collateral and by default until that trust is broken, you risk jumping into a situation or relationship without knowing enough information. Taking a little time to get to know a person, getting a sense of their integrity and intentions can help inform your decision to trust.

Of course, you may reside somewhere in between these two extremes on the spectrum, which may offer a better balance. Granting trust requires you to commit to working through tough situations when they arise. This perspective allows you to enter a relationship with individuals, teams, or organizations with your eyes open, knowing that mistakes will happen and that you are willing to work through those issues when they occur.

While there is no right or wrong answer to where you fit on the spectrum of trust, being aware of your tendencies and how they impact your relationships with others is key to understanding your behavior and modifying it if you find it necessary.

  1. How trustworthy am I?

This is the more challenging question, as it requires you to take a deep look at your own patterns of You may be wholly unaware of ways in which you show up and act (or don’t act) that impact the trust in your relationships. Asking others for input can be difficult, as their mirror may reflect a different view of you than your own, however getting honest feedback can help you view yourself from a different perspective, giving you the opportunity to evaluate behaviors and actions that are effective for building trust and those that are not.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to evaluate your own level of trustworthiness:

Do I have integrity? When you have integrity, you make decisions based on your values and moral compass. You are honest and do the right thing regardless of whether others are watching or not.

Is my personality consistent for all audiences? You treat everyone with equal respect, you don’t pretend you are something or someone you are not for the sake of appearances or influence.

Do I act with authenticity? You accept yourself for who you are. You listen deeply and you are transparent. Your words match your actions.

Do I show empathy? You are able to sense others’ feelings and emotions and view them from their perspective rather than your own. Then, you react with kindness and support for their situation.

Am I reliable? You can be trusted with high-priority projects and/or sensitive information. You will do what you say you will do.

The good news is that trust is a skill you can build with time and attention, and it will serve you well for a lifetime. If you want more information on Trust, or to take our Trust Self-Assessment, you can visit our homepage to download this free resource.