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03.28.2014 Sharon Spano, Ph.D.

Two Ways to Establish Trust Where You Live, Love, and Work

Establishing trust is one of those things that most of us assume we do really well. After all, it’s human nature to view ourselves as trustworthy. No one wants to think of themselves as someone who colors outside the lines of honesty and truthfulness.

If only it were that easy. Truth is, most of us fall into one of two categories. People who are perceived as trustworthy and people who are not.

If you fall into the second category, chances are you've never even stopped to wonder why.

The Buck Stops Here

Obviously, we don’t have control over how others perceive us. You might be the most trustworthy person on the planet. Maybe no one gets it.

Either way, in a world that often seems upside down, how to establish trust is a worthy conversation. I’m one who believes that every time we make a concentrated effort to do so, there is a rippling effect that will cause a splash to occur elsewhere.

Trust is one of the most ambiguous words in the English language. After all, it leaves considerable room for interpretation. Let’s take a closer look.

The Myth that it Takes Years to Establish Trust

Whenever I speak about trust, I always get opposing viewpoints on this issue. Some people think it takes years to establish. Others, myself included, believe that you can initiate trust in a moment’s time.

I’m not suggesting that you blindly trust every person who crosses your path. Or, that you foolishly think that everyone will blindly trust you just because you’re a good person. Establishing trust does take some work and consideration.

But, as I think through the list of people I have come to trust over the years, I note that most of them were people I trusted almost from the moment I met them, and they have never broken that trust. My husband Ralph Spano and my Pastor, Dr. Joel Hunter, are two such people that come to mind.

Establishing trust, then, is less about time and more about how you “show up.” Here’s a framework that can help you move in the right direction.

Competency and Benevolence: The Keys to Establishing Trust

One of the most meaningful ways I've come to understand trust is through the lens of competency and benevolence.

Competency is a bit easier to understand. It has to do with performance. In other words, are you competent enough to get the job done? If you’re claiming to be good at marketing, it will be much easier to establish trust with someone if you actually have the skills and talents required of someone in that industry.

Sounds obvious enough, but in today’s market place where everyone is claiming to be an expert at something, it’s important to establish yourself as competent and set yourself a part from the other guy.

Competency also has to do with how you conduct yourself in business and in life. If I’m someone who is late all the time, fails to honor my commitments, or just can’t seem to execute, for whatever reason, people will start to view me as incompetent.

Here’s a great example. I’m currently in the process of remodeling our master bath. I've had several contractors come out to offer estimates. The contractor that I actually liked the most, just can’t seem to get me the proposal, and it’s been almost two months since he visited our home!

I’m thinking if he’s not competent enough to even get me a bid in a timely manner (as the other two contractors were able to do), how competent will he be in managing the actual job? I’ve lost trust in his overall capabilities before we even started. Game over.

Benevolence is a bit trickier because it reflects your internal way of being and how you demonstrate that in your actions. In other words, you can’t fake benevolence.

Benevolence has to do with how kind, caring, and empathetic you are towards others. Are you the kind of person who does the right thing? Benevolent people often put others’ needs before their own, and they are great at demonstrating compassion. They live from principles and values. People know this about them, and they come to trust that this person is who they say there are. A benevolent person walks the talk.

You Gotta Do the Work

This is one of my favorite mantras. By this I mean, it behooves you to ask yourself on a regular basis, what do I need to do to develop my competency and what do I need to do to be a more benevolent person?

In order to establish trust, you have to have both competency and benevolence. If my best friend is a neurosurgeon, and I need a brain tumor removed, I’m probably not going to trust him to do the job if his last five patients died on the table. Get the picture?

If you’re doing the work to develop yourself in these two areas, I can promise that you will soon start to generate more meaningful and trustworthy relationships in your personal and professional life.

Try this. Spend a few moments making a list of your competencies. What are your strengths? Your weaknesses? Where do you need to do more work?

Then, make a list of your benevolent qualities. Also, where are you experiencing conflict in your life? When you are exhibiting negative emotions? These moments offer clues into areas that may need improvement in the benevolent category.

Then, take one area of improvement in each category and work towards it for one week. Watch what happens!

Q: What are some attributes you value most in people you've come to trust. You may leave a comment here.

Published by Sharon Spano, Ph.D. March 28, 2014