Sales, Marketing and Communication

How to build trust through your behavior

In Speed of Trust – The One Thing That Changes Everything (2012) Stephen Covey talks about how every interaction between humans is a moment of trust, where you construct or deconstruct trust through behavior. That's why it's important to act in a way that creates trust.

According to Covey you pay a high “trust tax” if your behavior brings you into situations that can seem to be breaking that trust. In order to keep your trust relationships intact and avoid paying the “trust tax”, he recommends that you adjust your behavior within 13 different areas. There are 13 different buttons you can turn when trying to gain trust and become a more trusting person.

We have selected four of the 13 types of trust that you can start working on immediately. They are all functional and universal, so you can introduce them right away and use them in every type of relation – private and professional.

Behavior 1: Be honest

When you tell the truth and speak frankly you strengthen your integrity and your honesty. When you are honest people will understand you and your positions. Lies and deceit burden any form of interaction just as beating about the bush and double speaking. When people lie it destroys trust.

You can work on your ability to be honest in the following ways:

  • Ask yourself what stops you from telling the truth. Is it fear of consequence, fear of being wrong, or lack of courage? Instead, find and focus on the advantages of being honest.

  • Pause in the middle of a conversation and asses if you are being honest or if you're sidetracking. Get the conversation back on the right track by thinking about what your initial intention was.

  • Learn to get to the point fast and realize that “less is more”. Focus on linguistic precision and economize your words to avoid long explanations in which you cannot navigate.

Behavior 4: Correct mistakes

This behavior is about more than just apologizing. It is about healing the wounds, fixing things and making things right. It's about humility, integrity and compensation. The opposite of this is denial, justifying or covering up the mistakes you make. In particular, it's about ego and pride, and these can be hard to defeat, because it takes courage to admit a mistake. If you make a mistake (everybody makes mistakes), the question is not what you have done, but what you want to do about it. In businesses it might be making a dissatisfied customer happy by compensating for a mistake. Maybe you offer a gift certificate as compensation. The little extra touch is appreciated, and you'll be remembered for it.

You can work on your ability to correct mistakes like this:

  • Be aware of your own reactions next time you make a mistake. Are you trying to ignore it, justify it or cover it up? Or are you quick at admitting it and doing what you can in order to compensate?

  • The next time someone makes a mistake, be quick to forgive so others can compensate for their mistakes more easily.

Behavior 5: Be loyal

A part of being loyal is to acknowledge other people – what they do and say, and the person they are. As a leader you can create a solid trust based working environment where employees feel safe by acknowledging them and being honest and loyal towards them all the way. It's of no use to be faking acknowledgments and speaking ill of people behind their backs.

You can train your loyalty in the following ways: 

  • When someone else speak ill of a person, you have several choices. You can choose to walk away, or you can stay without participating in the conversation. You can also say something positive about the person or signal your discomfort about the situation and ask people to stop talking about people behind their backs.

  • The next time you work in a team, give plenty of recognition to each person on account of the tasks they've solved.

Behavior 9: Define expectations

Expectations exist so that they can be met, otherwise they don't work. Ensuring alignment between people's expectations is an important preventive behavior, because if we don't live up to each other’s expectations it leads to a breaking of trust. In order to live up to each other’s expectations, these must be defined loud and clear, and that can be a challenge. In a professional context it requires insight in the elements of the task to define what is to be expected.

To create clarity regarding the expectations you raise upon others, you can do the following:

  • Ask questions to clarify whether your co-worker understand your expectations. Ask her to explain what her next step is and what your next step is. Find out, if she can live up to the expectations, or what you could do to make it easier.

As mentioned, you can immediately begin practice these four types of behavior and construct the trust that, according to Covey, is an important economic force.

Read about Speed of Trust - The One Thing That Changes Everything here: