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  • Writer's pictureYoram Solomon, PhD

The Ultimate TRUST Buster: The Truth about BS

The ongoing, ground-breaking Trust Premium™ research shows that of all the behaviors that a financial advisor, or a professional in general, demonstrates that can affect the probability that a customer would hire their services or buy from them, the top one was the no-BS component, which received the highest score of 4.01 (on a scale of 1 to 5), with 65% of participants saying that they would definitely or much more likely hire the services of a professional who uses no BS in communicating with them. I don’t know about you, but I’m not surprised by this result. We are born with a sensitive BS detector, which improves over time. The surprising thing to me is that salespeople and other professionals believe they can BS their way to a deal, not realizing that BS causes them to lose it.

This article will cover 28 of the NoBS behaviors that would cause people to trust you and contrast them against the opposite BS behaviors that would cause you to lose people’s trust in you. The behaviors range across different types of relationships, personal and professional, inside and outside organizations, whether you are trying to get your customers, spouse, constituents, peers, employees, boss, or anyone else. Some of them would not apply to specific relationships, and some would apply more than others.

Some of those behaviors are part of the Trust Premium study, and others are drawn from The Book of TRUST. I’m sure you can think of more. All those behaviors fall into the “NoBS” component of my relative trust model, although they can stretch into other components such as empathy, personality compatibility, and even competence and symmetry.

The NoBS and BS parts of the following list are the extreme ends of a range. You may not be exactly near one of those extremes, but you could be close enough (in case of NoBS behavior) or too close (in case of BS behavior) to one. The other person’s determination of the balance between BS and NoBS of your behaviors is cumulative across all those ranges.

Keep in mind that trust is relative. I’ve been saying this since I started my research on trust. The same behavior that would cause one person to trust you could cause another person to distrust you. Some behaviors listed here are more universal and absolute (such as telling the truth), while others are more “localized,” cultural, or even personal. My categorization of BS vs. NoBS here was done from my personal perspective and might not apply to everyone. You should determine which behavior is BS vs. NoBS through the eyes of the person you wish to be trusted by.

Final note: bad is much stronger than good. One negative BS behavior can wipe out the positive generated by many NoBS behaviors. Much like the Trust Habits® process suggests, you have a much better chance of increasing the trust in you by eliminating one bad BS behavior than adding one good NoBS behavior.

With that, here’s the list:

1. NoBS: Tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth.

BS: lie, tell only part of the truth, bundle truth with lies.

2. NoBS: Say exactly what you mean and what you feel. Tell people what they need to hear.

BS: say what you think the other person wants to hear instead of what you really feel and mean.

3. NoBS: Be driven by good intentions.

BS: Be driven by hidden agendas that have nothing to do with good intentions. Manipulate others.

4. NoBS: Use common sense, keep an open mind, and seek rationale and logic over ideology.

BS: accept (and use) things without using better judgment or common sense, even when they don’t make sense.

5. NoBS: Get to the point quickly. Be direct (not a synonym for being blunt or disrespectful)

BS: Beat around the bush without saying the actual words you should say.

6. NoBS: Take responsibility and admit to your mistakes.

BS: deflect responsibility, blame others.

7. NoBS: Be genuine. Do things for the right reasons. Not for others to see.

BS: Posturing, doing things for others to see rather than because they are right.

8. NoBS: Be very clear in what you say. Use the proper and correct words.

BS: Using symbols, labels, metaphors, and analogies instead of using the actual words.

9. NoBS: Be as informal and friendly as possible in the situation.

BS: Being overly formal, cordial, and unfriendly.

10. NoBS: Be open to challenging the status quo (see the next one, though).

BS: Stick to the “this is how things are done around here.”

11. NoBS: Don’t be afraid to take fences down, but only after you understand why they were put there in the first place.

BS: taking down fences while completely disregarding why they were put there in the first place.

12. NoBS: Don’t avoid addressing “the elephant in the room.”

BS: avoiding controversy.

13. NoBS: Use inspiration and motivation (not to mention solid data and common sense) to convince others.

BS: use your authority to control others and bend them to your will.

14. NoBS: Use data and knowledge and ask questions.

BS: making assumptions not based on actual data or knowledge, avoiding asking questions.

15. NoBS: Be unbiased, come with an open mind, present facts you know even when they disagree with your initial conclusions, and be willing to change your mind.

BS: Using confirmation bias, being selective in presenting only facts that support your agenda, focusing on convincing rather than reaching the proper conclusion and outcome.

16. NoBS: Be rational, matter-of-fact, and even passionate—attack ideas, not people.

BS: Be emotional and personal. Attack people instead of ideas.

17. NoBS: Do it right, don’t hurt anyone, and don’t focus on people but instead on behaviors.

BS: The end justifies the means. Everything is fair. Ignoring who you hurt in the process.

18. NoBS: Use humor and sarcasm, as they tend to improve discussion. However, use them appropriately. The level of humor and sarcasm you can use must depend on the level of trust that already exists.

BS: using inappropriate humor or sarcasm at the wrong time or place, well beyond the level supported by the existing level of preexisting trust.

19. NoBS: As Peter Drucker said, you should listen while seeking to understand, not respond.

BS: See to respond, make your point, label things, or label people.

20. NoBS: Seek consensus. Don’t misinterpret consensus, and try to get everyone to agree. Consensus means letting everyone get heard and their opinions genuinely considered while allowing a decision to emerge from the discussion.

BS: Using politics and lobbying to get a majority of support for your position. Pretending to listen or consider people’s opinions.

21. NoBS: Prepare people for surprises (especially negative ones) because you know they don’t like them.

BS: Surprise people with things, ideas, and actions they were not ready for and didn’t have time to consider before your interaction with them.

22. NoBS: Recognize people’s capabilities and merit first, regardless of their organizational position.

BS: Weighing people’s positions based on their organizational “importance” and what you hope to get by agreeing with them.

23. NoBS: Avoid passive-aggressive behavior.

BS: using passive-aggressive behavior to get your way or to ignore decisions.

24. NoBS: Wait to hear all sides and opinions before making decisions. Show a genuine interest in hearing everyone.

BS: Rushing to the decision without all possible input from people.

25. NoBS: Be proficient in saying “my mistake,” “my fault,” “Thank you,” and “I was wrong” (as well as the more advanced and harder version: “… and you were right.

BS: Avoiding using those terms because you are obviously (that’s sarcasm…) always right, never wrong, don’t make mistakes, and everything bad is obviously someone else’s fault.

26. NoBS: Bring up things others haven’t thought about. Challenge their thinking. Bring up positions even if they are opposite to yours just to help others see the other side.

BS: Stating only the status quo and how “things are done around here” without challenging any opinion.

27. NoBS: Be constructively critical.

BS: being judgemental instead of critical. Making things personal instead of topical. Or even being politically correct and avoiding controversy.

28. NoBS: Look for ways to learn from your (and others') mistakes and not repeat them.

BS: Find ways to blame others for mistakes so you don’t have to admit to them, although that also prevents you from learning from them and from not repeating them.

I’m sure you can think of more.

Listen to the podcast episode to hear quite a few stories behind all those BS/NoBS “rules”:

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.


The Book of Trust®, The Innovation Culture Institute®, and Trust Habits® are registered trademarks of Yoram Solomon. Trust Premium™ and The Trust Show™ are trademarks of Yoram Solomon.

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