Trust as Perceived Consistency
Whether I trust another person depends on three factors:
- what I think his goal is,
- what he says his goal is, and
- what his actions say his goal is.
The more consistency I see between these three things, the more trust I feel for the person.
For example, I do not trust a businessman who talks to me about my interests. Since I assume that his goal is profit, what he speaks is inconsistent with what I think his intentions are, and that creates distrust. But when he starts explaining how my interests relate to his goal of making profit (thereby increasing consistency between what I think his goal is and what he says it is), I start trusting him more. Further, when he is competent at what he does such that he makes a lot of profit (thereby increasing consistency between goal and actions), I will trust him even more.
Establishing trust takes time, of course, and as evidence for consistency accumulates, trust increases. By contrast, obscure goals and dishonesty produce inconsistency, which erodes trust.
How to Establish Trust
So, what can you do if you want to build trust with other people?
- Be honest (consistent with your words and thoughts).
- Be clear in your intentions (have a clear goal, know what you truly want).
- Be consistent with your intentions in your words and actions (this requires self-discipline).
- Be aware of how others perceive you and what they might conclude from their perceptions about your intentions.
That last point is critical, and what helps here is to find out about a person’s view of humanity: is it optimistic, pessimistic, or cynical? If someone thinks people are fundamentally good, you may insinuate that you have good intentions, whereas you will lose trust if you do that to a pessimist who only sees the bad in people. A better strategy with pessimists is confident self-deprecation. With a cynic, lastly, you can establish trust if you just frankly declare your selfish interest, for he is convinced that humans are invariably egoistic anyway.