People Power: Trust has the power to build strong relationships. How do you inspire it? - July 2020

By Sam Allman

Have you ever been duped? What about bamboozled, beguiled, bluffed, buffaloed, burned, conned, deceived, deluded, fooled, gaffed, gammoned, had, hoaxed, hoodwinked, hornswoggled, misguided, misled, snookered, spoofed, strung along, suckered or taken in? Amazing all the words that can be used to describe the feeling when trust is broken or lost. Because of the nature of life, I can say with a certainty that each of you have had an experience where you can use one of the words above to describe it.

My natural tendency is to trust people. I grew up in a home where honesty and integrity were taught and were core values, and I learned that honesty was expected. The worse thing my father could say to me was, “I thought I could trust you.” I knew I was loved because being loved in our home was unconditional. Love was not used as a tool to control or manipulate my behavior.

My upbringing, in some ways, did not prepare me for the real world. I was a little naive. Once on my own, and in an effort to find my own way and build my net worth for my family’s future, I started investing and taking risks with what little discretionary money I had. I made stupid decisions, like borrowing from the equity in my home or from a bank to invest. I was a greenhorn in the financial world. I did not do well. I told my friends that my investment policy was to “buy high and sell low,” hoping that laughing would make me feel better. It didn’t.

I learned a lot. I learned that I could not trust everyone. I was easy prey for unethical, dishonest people, even some I considered friends. I have a 50-year-old bounced check that was written by a friend who knew there were insufficient funds to cover it. He was a smooth talker, skilled at the art of persuasion but without personal ethics. I invested with people who had good intentions, believed in what they were doing, but were incapable of bringing their promises to fruition. From that, I learned that being trustworthy was more than being of good character; being trusted has a component of competence. Making commitments and promises must include the ability deliver results.

These qualities are of importance not only in personal relationships but also on a larger scale. As we have a presidential election coming up this year, I consider how important trustworthiness is as we elect our country’s leaders. I wrote a column four years ago that is still relevant (Read it here: I write this one as a corollary to it.

Trust is a subject of which we should be perpetually reminded because of its power to build and sustain personal relationships, its power to bring about profit in organizations, its power to unite and get constituents to follow and soldiers to fight, and its power to produce results exponentially through synergy.

Trust is the foundation of all relationships, leadership and the essence of people power. “The only relationships in this world that have ever been worthwhile and enduring have been those in which one person could trust another,” said Samuel Smiles, a Scottish author. Broken trust creates pain, disappointment and loss. It destroys relationships, profit, organizations and families.

Being trustworthy starts with us. How can we expect others to be trustworthy if we are not? We will never be able to extend trust to others unless we know that we can be trusted. We can’t expect it of others if we can’t expect it of ourselves.

I cannot make others trustworthy. I can only work on myself. The ultimate ability of those with people power is “inspiring trust.” Whether we are selling, leading, courting or parenting, we must be generating trust. Proving trustworthiness to others is not easy and takes time. It’s especially difficult to inspire trust in those who have been previously misled and may be impossible for those who suffered violations of trust that are too severe or the betrayal too deep and the pain to great.

We are human, and we make mistakes. There is no question in my mind that each of us has broken trust a number of times during our lives. Sometimes we do something stupid-intentional or unintentional. Sometimes we make a promise we can’t keep or are incapable of delivering. We may even be deceitful to cover up or blame others for a failure. The idea that trust cannot be restored once it is lost is a myth. The problem is that it cannot be restored overnight. It takes time, effort and diligence. The fact is that mistakes and failures can lead to some of the greatest opportunities for learning and growing.

Just a reminder: any time you make a commitment, be it a decision, an affirmation for a personal goal or a promise to yourself or others, there are forces that, unless you are aware, will impede your ability to carry out that commitment. Despite our good intentions, there are powerful restraining forces always at work trying to sabotage any new personal resolution or initiative. That’s why personal change is so difficult for us, and we keep making the same resolutions over and over again. Making a change like trying to become more trustworthy requires self-discipline. It is a measure of character: the ability to keep a promise to oneself. What causes us to not do that? Being slaves to our appetites and passions, our pride or our unbridled ambitions. Either we control these restraining factors, or they will control us. Which of these have been a cause for a breach of trust in your life?

As Socrates stated, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Where could you improve your ability to inspire trust? And then how would you do it? The simplest way would be to decide what you needed to do differently and just do it. One of the greatest principles I know is the “as if” principle. It states that if you want to be different, act as if you are. If you want to be happy, act happy. If you want to be outgoing, be outgoing. If you want to be grateful, act grateful. I find it easier to act my way into being enthusiastic than thinking my way into it. If you want to be more trustworthy, behave in a trustworthy manner.

Here are some behaviors that may help you inspire trust, adapted from “The Speed of Trust” by Stephen Covey.

Walk your talk. There’s absolute consistency between what you say and what you do. There is no hypocrisy; you are not divided within yourself. “I will do exactly what I say I will do, when I say I will do it. If I change my mind, I will tell you well in advance, so you will not be harmed by my actions.” This is called congruency. Conform to good values and principles. A man has integrity when he makes a commitment to follow certain principles and follows through on his commitments without fail.

Talk straight. Be honest. Don’t distort or spin the truth. Your words should correspond to what you really think and feel. Don’t leave false impressions or cover up truth by keeping silent. Don’t have hidden agendas.

Extend trust. If you want people to trust you, trust them. Yes, we must play the trust game, too. We have to let go of our skepticism before others will let go of theirs. One-way trust doesn’t last.

Keep commitments. Make promises carefully and keep them. Be realistic in the commitments you make. Build trust by keeping confidences.

Demonstrate respect. Treat others kindly and with dignity and respect. Being charitable, serving and helping others, spending time with them and using kind and respectful words will prove your respectfulness.

Listen first. Listen before you speak. Seeking understanding (acquiring empathy) is one of the most powerful human relationship behaviors that inspires trust. Don’t be a know-it-all. As empathy increases, trust increases. Empathy is the root of compassion. We trust people who care about us.

Practice accountability. Take responsibility for failure. Avoid blaming others when things don’t work as planned. Hold others accountable but don’t micromanage. Ironically, taking responsibility for mistakes inspires trust faster than placing the blame on others.

Clarify expectations. The primary cause of all frustrations is unmet expectations. Expectations need to be discussed, clarified and agreed upon. Trust increases when everyone feels they are on the same page.

Right wrongs. Right wrongs even if you were not responsible. Make restitution where it is possible and appropriate. Apologize quickly with humility. Be careful of the retraining forces that may hold you back, such as pride, ambition and passions.

Confront reality. Stand up and be counted for something. Don’t put your head in the sand. Don’t be afraid to discuss the elephant in the room. Don’t skirt real issues.

Show loyalty. Begin by showing loyalty to those not in your presence. That will demonstrate your loyalty and breed trust for those who are in your presence. Don’t badmouth others behind their backs. Give credit freely to others for their contributions. Always talk about others as if they were with you.

Get better. Be a constant learner. Read out of the best books, listen to podcasts. Open your mind. Knowledge is power because it gives you choices and alternatives. Becoming an expert in anything makes you an authority. Expertise inspires trust.

Deliver results. Deliver what’s expected, when it’s expected and within budget. When possible, exceed expectations. Promising less and delivering more inspires trust exponentially.

Those with people power are conscious about their behavior and the impact it has on the people around them. They are willing to examine what behaviors of their own may be getting in the way. Trustworthiness is hard-earned and easily lost.

Copyright 2020 Floor Focus 

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