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Building Trust in Key Relationships

Updated: Jun 21, 2022

Discover the key behaviours which will help you build credit in the Trust Bank with valuable stakeholders.

building trust in key relationships

Trust is a word that's thrown around quite flippantly at times, but it's important to take a moment and think about what it means in the context of your relationship with the stakeholders you deal with. Trust can be about what you say, it can be a description of your behaviour, it can be an assessment of the level of comfort in a relationship. It relates to the willingness of the stakeholder to share at a level that may expose some vulnerabilities. Trust is also influenced by the stakeholder's sense of what your true motivations may be: are they genuine and authentic? Are they about ‘us’, rather than just ‘me’?

There are three elements that build or reveal a true trust-based relationship. Some are company or product based, and others are people-based. A simple way to think about this is as a ‘trust equation’ which looks like this.

Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy = Trust

These are the elements which help us build credit in the Trust Bank. So what does this look like in practice?


To a customer, trust looks like a resounding YES to questions of credibility like… ‘Can I rely upon the expertise of this person? The expertise of this company, their offering, the proposition that they're putting on the table? And does this person have the right amount of knowledge for me to respect their opinion?’


When it comes to reliability, trust is built or displayed when they’re able to answer yes to questions like ‘Can I trust that this company and this person are going to do what they say they're going to do? Does the product do what it says it should do on the tin? Does this company and this individual keep their promises?


This is where we move more into the people skills space - to the often intangible ‘friendliness’ of your relationship. Essentially, all trusting relationships are based on positive responses to questions like ‘Do I like you? Do you take the time to understand me and what matters to me? Do you get me, and will you work hard to really clarify what that means? And as an individual, can I relate to you? Is there enough in this relationship for me to recognise there's value in building it and continuing it?’

As humans, we make decisions emotionally, and then we look to justify them logically. Unfortunately, if we're stuck in a world of data, detail, and statistics, we need to work hard to find opportunities to add emotion into our interactions. These are all ways in which you can build credit in your Trust Bank.

building trust
How are you framing key conversations with customers?


Another element of trust building relates to self-orientation, authenticity, and sincerity. Every stakeholder you deal with is asking themselves, on a conscious or subconscious level; ‘Does this company and this person act in the best interests of me & us? Or are they merely interested in what works for them? Is there a level of care beyond just the transactional in this relationship, or in this discussion that we're having today?’

These questions relate to how you frame or reframe the conversation. Framing refers to the filter through which we all look to interpret meaning around behaviours, messages, ideas, decisions, and new concepts. If your interactions are not framed to reflect their point of view and goals, but instead based on what you want to get out of the relationship, building trust will always be difficult.

I invite you to think about the questions that you're asking, the insights that you're trying to derive, and the information that you're trying to understand. Is it all just about you, and your company? Or is it designed to serve as a way to better understand what's important for the customer & the customers customer? Shifting from being motivated by gaining insight (with a focus on yourself) to being motivated to provide solutions and information (and better understand what's important to your stakeholder) will pave the way to building the trust you seek with key individuals.

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