Seed World

Trust Me to Trust You


A trusting relationship requires each party be trustworthy and that each party be trusting. 

Trustworthy behaviors are those that say: “You can trust me”. These behaviors are straightforward and seem hard to argue against:

  • Be honest. Tell others how you feel, even if it is to disagree.
  • Be fair.
  • Keep confidential information to yourself. Don’t gossip.
  • Don’t speak poorly of others.
  • Be consistent and predictable.
  • Do what you say you’ll do. Follow through on commitments.

Trusting behaviors are those that say: “I trust you”. These behaviors might not be so clear or obvious:

  • Admit when you do not know something. Be curious in your lack of knowledge. 
  • Take responsibility for your actions. Especially when it might cause you trouble.
  • Apologize when you make a mistake.
  • Share information freely, even personal information.
  • Delegate. 

Trusting behaviors are about being vulnerable — they are about taking a risk with the other person. The willingness to exhibit trusting behaviors is the result of the other person’s trustworthy behaviors.

For some, trust of the other person comes quickly. This approach might sound like, “I trust others until they prove otherwise”. For some, trust of the other person comes slowly. This approach might sound like, “They have to earn my trust.” However, the best way to quickly achieve a trusting relationship is to be both fully trustworthy and be fully trusting from the get-go. Logically, that makes sense, but then why aren’t we both trusting and trustworthy right from the beginning of a relationship?  

What are the barriers to exhibiting trusting behaviors? Part of this answer is deep in the psychology and evolution of human brain. Withholding trust is a protective barrier. But at some point, someone in a group needs to take a risk and exhibit some trusting behavior. While we might simply say that a lack of trusting behaviors is “just how I am” or it’s “natural”, unlike our ancestors, we must remember that we are not working in a life-or-death situation. Also, as a leader, you already have the power and control. There is little reason for a lack of trusting behavior, especially when you are the leader. 

What are the barriers to being trustworthy? If it is the case that trustworthy behaviors are straightforward and hard to argue against, why would someone not clearly exhibit these behaviors? It turns out, there may not as much difference between being trustworthy and being trusting as these previous descriptions may imply. 

  • If I am not willing to be admit that I am wrong, am I being honest? 
  • If I am not willing to apologize for a mistake, am I being consistent when I expect others to do so? 
  • If I am not sharing information freely, am I being fair?
  • If we are not regularly giving direct feedback to a team member, might I be seen as speaking poorly? 

These examples might tell us why someone who is not trusting of others may also be perceived as not being trustworthy. We can seemingly justify not being trusting of others, but in doing so we may also be justifying not being trustworthy. I believe we all want to be and be perceived as being trustworthy, but in order to be perceived as trustworthy, one has to also exhibit trusting behaviors.