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  • Writer's pictureYoram Solomon, PhD

7 Insights About TRUST

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In today's fast-paced and interconnected world, trust plays a fundamental role in shaping our personal or professional relationships. As a cornerstone of human interaction, trust can turn a group of talented individuals into a cohesive and high-performing team. However, trust is a complex and multifaceted concept, with nuances varying from person to person. This article will take you beyond the 8 laws of trust and 6 components of the relative trust model and provide 7 insights derived from them.

1. Trust turns a group of creative and productive individuals into a creative and productive team.

In my doctoral research, I found a 42.5% correlation between team dynamics and creativity and productivity. Digging deeper into team dynamics revealed that it focuses on the team’s ability to hold a constructive disagreement. In a 2017 survey, I found that when the level of trust in a team is low, members are 10 times more likely to state that disagreements are unproductive, that they feel uncomfortable disagreeing, or that they avoid disagreements altogether than in a high-trust team (61% compared to 6%). On the other hand, when trust is high, team members are 151% more likely to state that they can disagree but not let it become personal or even passionately disagree while remaining friends than in a low-trust team (94% vs. 39%).

a chart showing the statistics described above

2. Trust is Relative. The same behavior that would cause one person to trust you could cause another to distrust you.

This is a significant change from what we knew about trust until now. We were led to believe that there are behaviors that would cause you to be trusted and behaviors that would cause you to be distrusted, and those are absolute and universal. Reality is more nuanced than that. While some behaviors are black-and-white, good-vs-bad (such as telling the truth vs. lying), others are more relative, contextual, and personal. A risk-averse person will not trust a risk-taker. Someone who completes jobs as soon as given them would not trust a procrastinator. Those behaviors are not good or bad; they are simply different because we are different people with different personalities, and sometimes those differences could cause us to trust or distrust people differently from others.

a chart showing that the same behavior that would cause one person to trust you could cause another person to distrust you

3. My trust in you is the product of my trustfulness (willingness to trust) and your trustworthiness.

Trust is a two-person game. You can be the most trustworthy person and still not be trusted by everyone, not even because of different personalities. My trust in you is the product of my trustfulness (my willingness to trust other people in general) and your trustworthiness.

We are the sum of our experiences, and some experiences cause us to trust others less. The statistics on scams and spam caused us to trust people less the first time we interacted with them. There is almost nothing you can do about my trustfulness, which results from my interactions with people other than you, but there is everything you can do about your trustworthiness.

4. Your trustworthiness is made of who you are and what you do when you interact with me

The relative trust model includes six components, categorized into two groups: who you are and what you do. The following table explains the differences:

a table comparing thw who you are components to the what you do components of the relative trust model

5. If you trust someone and show them that you trust them, they will behave in a trustworthy way.

We like to think about the reciprocity of trust as “if you trust me, I will trust you.” It doesn’t work this way because trust is asymmetrical. My trust in you is the product of my trustfulness and your trustworthiness, while your trust in me is the product of your trustfulness and my trustworthiness. Those are four independent variables. However, when you trust someone and show them that you trust them, they will behave in a trustworthy way. Otherwise, it’s a terrible feeling to know someone trusts you beyond the trust you believe you deserve and earned. It’s called cognitive dissonance. At the same time, if you distrust someone and show them that you distrust them, or even if you trust them but don’t show them that you trust them, they will behave in an untrustworthy way because they will feel the effort of being trustworthy does not create the desired outcome.

two cycles, one with trust and trustworthiness and one with distrust and untrustworthiness

6. If you eliminate one bad behavior, you will increase your trustworthiness more than adding one good behavior.

Research shows that we respond much stronger to negative experiences than to positive ones. This, for example, is why we are more likely to post a negative review if we have a negative experience than a positive one if we have a positive experience. This is also why, when we look for reviews, we first look for the negative reviews… For that reason, the positive impact that good behavior has on building trust is much smaller than the negative impact that bad behavior has on reducing trust. The positive impact you will have on your trustworthiness by eliminating a bad behavior that is holding you back from being more trusted is much stronger than the positive impact you will have by adding one more good behavior while continuing to demonstrate the bad one.

a graph showing that you ger a bigger impact on trust for bad behaviors than for good behaviors

7. Forming a habit takes different times for different people in different contexts.

The Trust Habits® process relies on one simple fact of life: knowledge is not enough if you don’t build habits. That is the same reason people don’t lose weight even though they know how to eat and exercise. Becoming more trusted will require you to change behaviors, but changing behaviors permanently requires forming new habits. But how long does it take to form a new habit? If you google that question, you will get different answers, such as 66 days, 21 days, or any other number. But the reality is that none of those numbers is relevant to your specific situation, which is affected by your motivation, how hard it is to form these specific habits and other contextual factors. The bottom line is that just like you use your car started until the engine runs by itself, forming a new habit will take as long as it takes until you don’t have to think about it anymore, it becomes automatic, and it is easier to continue it instead of stopping it.


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Dr. Yoram Solomon

Dr. Yoram Solomon is an expert in trust, employee engagement, teamwork, organizational culture, and leadership. He is the author of The Book of Trust, host of The Trust Show podcast, a three-time TEDx speaker, and facilitator of the Trust Habits workshop and masterclass that explains what trust is and how to build trust in organizations. He is a frequent speaker at SHRM events and a contributor to magazine.

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