Being More Trustworthy: The Basics

Thumb botsman 2
Apr 01, 2019
5
2

This article is part of the Forum Network series on Trust and and will feed into upcoming discussions at OECD Forum 2019.

In 2019 I’m tackling a simple but powerful challenge: being more trustworthy.

The papers are full of sleep, exercise and diet resolutions. We often don’t think of trust in this way, but trust is also an important health issue. Trust is the glue of personal and professional relationships. When trust breaks down, it triggers all kinds of negative emotions  —  fear, anger, jealousy — followed by some pretty negative behaviours including defensiveness and blame. Personally, my response is to disengage when distrust creeps in.

“How can I get people to trust me more?” or “How do I restore trust when it’s been broken?” are common questions people ask. The answer is actually the same: be more trustworthy.

The problem is that we often talk about trust in very vague terms. Ever had a boss or a partner say, “I just don’t trust you?” Not helpful. What are we meant to do with that? How do we know what needs to change? We need a clear and precise trust language that enables us to have tough conversations and to identify specific behaviours that can lead to meaningful changes.


It’s incredibly useful to understand the four key ingredients we use to decide whether or not to give someone our trust. They are called the traits of trustworthiness  —  competence, reliability (how we do things), integrity and empathy (why we do things).

Question checklist:

Competence: Do you have the skills, knowledge, time and resources to do a particular task or job? Are you honest about what you can and can’t do?

Reliability: Can people depend on you to keep the promises and commitments you make? Are you consistent in you the way you behave from one day to the next?

Integrity: Do you say what you mean and mean what you say? Do your words align with your actions? Are you honest about your intentions and motives toward others?

Empathy: Do you care about the other person’s interests as well as your own? Do you think about how your decisions and actions affect others?

An important note: Being trustworthy and being perceived as trustworthy are two very different things. We often think people should trust us because we score ourselves highly on ALL of the traits, but how others experience and perceive us can be totally different.

Recommended action: Ask a range of people (friends, colleagues, students, loved ones) to rate you across these traits for different situations. It’s an incredibly powerful (if at times confronting) mirror-exercise.

Understanding these traits is a powerful way to identify strengths and weaknesses and the little changes we can make to cultivate healthier, more trusting relationships in different areas of our lives.

We all have the power to act in more trustworthy ways.

Continue the conversation and help us co-create the agenda

How trustworthy do you think you are? Could you do more to improve this? Do you agree with the list of ingredients? All of the discussions you have on the Forum Network inform our thinking for the OECD Forum event each year – respond to Rachel’s questions and give your opinions by commenting to help us co-create the agenda!

Related Topics

OECD Forum 2019

Read more on being trustworthy on Rachel's LinkedIn page

Banner graphic from Who Can You Trust? by Rachel Botsman

Find out more about OECD Forum 2019: World in EMotion

OECD Forum 2019: World in EMotion
Medium botsman 2

Rachel Botsman

Author, Who Can You Trust?; Lecturer, Oxford University

2 Comments

Thumb default avatar

Interesting especially the check list which could be used in addition of a web investigation.

Thumb chakhoyanconnectukraine
Andrew Chakhoyan 3 months ago

Great framework!  The challenge now is to convert this into the actionable agenda for business, policymakers, alike.