How To Create Trust In A Low – Trust World

trustDo you think people are trustworthy? I like to think so – though there are many cases in my life where that proved NOT to be the case. Stephen M.R. Covey,  (son of Stephen Covey of  7 Habits of Highly Effective People fame) studied trust for his book Smart Trust and he believes people ARE generally trustworthy. But the perception most of us have today is that they are not.

Consequently, we live in a “low trust” world.

Yet Covey also discovered overwhelming evidence that operating with “high trust” gets better outcomes, better economic performance, better energy, greater joy. So, the dilemma is how do we operate with high trust in a low trust world without getting burned? Good question.

Ideally, you put yourself in a position that doesn’t allow anyone to cheat. Game theory has some interesting examples of this. For instance, if two children want to split a piece of cake, there is one way to make sure the two pieces are as equal as possible. It’s the rule of, “I cut and you choose.” That way, if one child cuts the pieces unequally he will lose out because the other child will take the bigger piece.  No trust is required because the results are driven by self-interest.

Another way is to use what game theory calls “credible commitment.” Len Fisher, author of Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life, explains it this way:

“Two friends of mine did a parachute jump and each of them said, “I’ll do it as long as you do”. Then they got up in the airplane and they started to think, ‘Well what happens if I jump and then the other person just stays behind and chickens out?’ The way they solved it where they showed what game theorists call ‘credible commitment’, was by grabbing hold of each others wrists so that if one jumped the other had to.”

For long term relationships however, deeper and more meaningful trust is necessary. We can’t always be around to watch the other guy “cut the cake” nor can we hold his wrist to make sure he jumps.

David Hosager author of The Trust Edge has a great and simple definition of trust.”

I define trust as ‘a confident belief in’. So if I confidently believe in you, costs go down, skepticism goes down, everything changes. Whether you’re a mom at home or you’re running a Fortune 500 company – when trust goes up, morale, retention, productivity, all go up. Cost, problems, skepticism, attrition, time and stress all go down.”

But how do you create trust if we are un-trusting in the first place? Well Stephen Covey believes the best way is to start with trust. Start by thinking that people ARE trustworthy until they give you a reason to not trust them. When you start from a position of trust, it opens up possibilities. Sure, you have to be cautious – but be cautious not suspicious – at least until you have reason to be.

In order for you to be perceived by others as trustworthy, David Hosager says, you should only make commitments that you are positive you can keep. He says, “Don’t tell your kids you’ll be there if you won’t be there absolutely.” When you flake out on commitments, people can’t trust you. And the only way to rebuild trust is to start making and keeping commitments once again. Only it will likely be a slow trip back.

Saying, “I’m sorry,” or “Give me one more chance,” does not regain trust. That is only asking permission to try again to rebuild trust.

When trust is established great things happen. “When people trust each other you move incredibly fast,” says Covey, “You also get greater energy. Nothing energizers people like being trusted. You also get greater joy, greater happiness, greater satisfaction and more fun. That’s true in business, relationships – it’s true in almost all of life.”

I think the most powerful sentence in this post is:

“Nothing energizers people like being trusted.”

Think in your own life when you felt that someone trusted you to do something. It likely felt great and provided the fuel to do  excellent work. That is one big reason why it is worth it to build and maintain trust and to trust others.

Please leave a comment below if you have some thoughts on the topic of trust. And if you like this post please like and/or share it on Facebook and Twitter. You can use the  buttons on this page.

Below are affiliate links to the books mentioned in this post.
photo credit: compassrose_04 via photopin cc

Related Posts

Christine Carter

How To Slow Down To Get More Done (Podcast Episode 21)

Being really busy means you are important and that you are getting a lot of things done – right? Not really. Not necessarily. Being busy just means you are busy. So what if you could actually accomplish more by doing less? Christine Carter says that is not only possible, it is necessary.

The Brilliant Idea of Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing. It is when an organization takes a task and outsources it to an undefined network or people in the form of an “open call.” Facebook is an example of crowdsourcing. Millions of users provide all the content that makes Facebook interesting.

word of mouth

How Word-of-Mouth Marketing Really Works (Podcast Episode 20)

Word-of- mouth. It’s long been touted as the best form of advertising. When you can get people to talk to their friends about your product or service, amazing things can happen. But how does it all work? Why do some products attract that viral type of attention while others don’t? Is it intentional

effort or talent

Effort or Talent – What’s More Important?

Call it grit or determination or something else. – it is what fuels our desire to go after and complete a goal. Sadly, it seems in the last few generations, we haven’t preached the virtues of grit. There seem to be a few reasons why. First of all there has been this idea that if […]


  1. CurtisBisp says:

    I think it’s so-so

Speak Your Mind