The way I look at it, trust is comprised of three unique components: similarity, outcome alignment, and confidence.
We usually open ourselves up more to people whose lives seem similar to ours than we do to people whose lives seem very different. We are drawn to others’ values, beliefs and actions because we “identify” with them, i.e., we recognize our own “identity” in the actions of the other.
This is true across class systems, politics, religion, organizational departments, and organizational levels. Think about it. The primitive tendency to distrust difference is so strong that we’ve created “diversity” education just to help us overcome it. And it’s still hard.
2. Outcome Alignment
We tend to trust others when our goals will be advanced by them advancing theirs (i.e., when our outcomes are positively interdependent). We tend to distrust people when their pursuit of their goals impedes our progress towards ours (i.e., when our outcomes are negatively interdependent).
This dynamic fosters “in-group” and “out-group” behavior in competitive sports and other win/lose games from which we often derive motivation and fun. In fact, identifying a “common enemy” is a rapid (but not the most productive) way to build a team. (See Leadership Skills: Don’t Rally the Team to Beat the “Enemy”)
We learn to trust people who keep their promises and who do what they say they’ll do. In other words, we assign credibility to people who can successfully predict their own behavior and do what they say they will do.
We have the greatest trust in people with whom we’ve had long relationships where integrity, respect, and confidence have been demonstrated repeatedly — and never violated.
If you need one, this is the best argument we know for only making agreements you intend to keep (See the formula for building trust here: Build Trust With These 4 Easy Steps to Fix Broken Agreements).
How much do YOU value building trust?
Get Started With This 5-Minute Stretch
Review the queue of people you trust most in your life. Reflect on the components listed above: similarity, outcome alignment, and confidence. What role do each of these play in your trust of these people?
In which areas would you like to build more trust? How can focusing on these three components show you how to build yet more trust into the relationships?
Briefly describe the belief or mindset that would lower your fear and/or distrust of differences, of negative interdependence, and of low confidence.
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Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.
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