14 Ways to Build (and Lose) Trust

Ways to Build and Lose Trust

Trust is not an abstract, theoretical, idealistic goal forever beyond our reach. Trust—or a lack of it—is inherent in every action that we take and affects everything that we do. Trust is the cement that binds relationships, keeping spouses together, business deals intact and political systems stable. Without trust, marriages fail, voters become apathetic and organizations flounder. Without trust, no person or company can ever hope for excellence.

The truth is, trust must be carefully constructed, vigorously nurtured and constantly reinforced. Although it takes a long time to develop, it can be destroyed by a single action. And once lost, it is exceptionally difficult to re-establish.

So how do you do it? How can you build that sacred trust, that valuable credibility? Here are 14 things to remember, adapted from Follow Your Conscience by Frank Sonnenberg:

1. Be straight with people. Tell it like it is.

2. Don’t be afraid to present bad news. It’s worse to sweep it under the rug.

3. Remain calm, cool and collected during difficult times.

4. Present both sides of an issue. (Let them judge for themselves.)

5. Be a good listener.

6. Disclose potential conflicts of interest.

7. Even a tiny exaggeration can destroy your credibility.

8. Always tell the truth or the truth will tell on you.

9. Your actions “off-stage” (like at an office party or on Facebook) impact your trust and credibility.

10. “Everybody does it” is a poor excuse for doing it yourself.

11. Learn how to disagree without being disagreeable.

12. Repeating a rumor is as vicious as starting one.

13. People will test you in small ways before trusting you outright.

14. The only thing worse than talking about others is talking about yourself.


Frank Sonnenberg is an award-winning author. He was recently named one of “America's Top 100 Thought Leaders” and nominated as one of “America’s Most Influential Small Business Experts.” FrankSonnenbergOnline was named among the “Best 21st Century Leadership Blogs.”

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