Did you know that the typical internet user is twice as likely as others to feel that people can be trusted? Facebook users are the most trusting of all.  They are three times more likely to trust people than non-internet users.  One of the reasons for this is because it increases the brains release of oxytocin when people connect.

Oxytocin has been referred to as the “cuddle hormone” because when it is released it fuses an unshakable bond between nursing mothers and their babies.  It creates empathy, generosity, and trust.

Now these are very subjective criteria for trusting or building trust. So let me add some more objective components.

Webster defines trust as…

an assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.”

It’s different than integrity.  Integrity is what you are, whereas trust is a feeling or perception you have about someone or something.

Trust is also very natural.  We want to trust others.  You can see this in young children. IMG_3995 They naturally trust.  They learn to distrust.

So what are the different components involved in trusting and being trusted.  Here are 3.

1. Build your personal trust.  This is based on faith in your integrity, and it’s developed through shared experiences.  Are you reliable?  Do you meet deadlines?  When the pressure is on can you be counted on? Are you honest?

One of the best ways to demonstrate honesty is to

  • hang a lantern on your problem.  In other words, when you make a mistake admit it. How many times have we seen that what kills people in business, politics, and athletics is not the mistake, but the cover up? What is the private lesson we can learn from public examples?  Admit the issue right away.  It doesn’t make the problem go away, but it doesn’t make it worse, and it reinforces trust.

Another component of personal trust is called

  • positive discretionary behavior. This is a big phrase that simply means you are a nice person.  You are benevolent and kind.  You are polite.  You hold the door open when you see someone struggling to carry something in.  It’s not enforceable.  You don’t have to do it.  Both on and off the job you do more than is expected.  We trust nice people more than we do the “it’s not my job” crowd or “I don’t have to” crowd.

Another aspect of personal trust is

  • vulnerability.  Yes, you risk getting hurt by being open. But people are prone to trust those who choose not to self-protect. We trust those who aren’t afraid to show their vulnerabilities.

Personal trust is important.  But there is a second component.

2. Build your expertise trust.  This can include personal trust but it is different.  Expertise trust relies on someone’s specific ability.  Is this person competent?  I once had a very nice guy install a stereo system in our home.  He was nice, fair, kind, and even showed vulnerability.  There was just one problem. The house system never worked right. 🙁  If the competence is lacking, the consequence is that your trust decreases.  This is true of accountants, attorneys, professors, doctors, pilots, landscapers, sales people, or anyone that is doing a job – paid or unpaid.

3. Build your trust in others. When we choose, consciously or unconsciously, not to trust someone, it triggers a negative neurological sequence in the other person.  On the other hand, research has shown that when people feel trusted, that in turn makes them potentially more trustworthy.

How does it work?  The oxytocin level is increased in a person’s brain when they feel trusted.  This in turn makes them become more trustworthy. Good people — guided by their values and moral principles — will still behave in a trustworthy manner and will be more motivated and even potentially more trustworthy when they feel trusted.

This has implications all the way from raising children to leading in the workplace. Trusting your children or employees has the potential of increasing their trustworthiness.  It’s true on a conscious level because they appreciate the respect you are showing them.  It’s also true on a deeper unconscious level as the “trust” hormone is released.

What do you do to work on your trust? How are you at trusting others?