Caution: Slippery Slopes Ahead!

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Trust, that slippery thing that is difficult to build and yet so terribly easy to break. Today, our society is plagued by the conundrum of who to trust, what to trust, and where to trust. Misinformation abounds in such extreme, prevalent degrees that many of us do not even know what to believe in regards to the ongoing pandemic, subsequent vaccinations, and so much else.

Societal trust has perhaps always been evanescent, but individual trust lurks within our grasp. How can we, as leaders, inspire the trust of people around us, whether they be colleagues or family? We’ve all heard the commonplace nugget of advice, “Just be yourself,” but as Frances Frei notes in her TED Talk, sometimes muting ourselves is more tempting. If we believe that we are different from those around us, Frei observes that it can be challenging to show our true selves, thus we risk building relationships upon falsehoods. She adds, “If we hold back who we are, we’re less likely to be trusted.”

As conveyed by Psychology Today,trust is needed for our organizations to prosper, for employees to want to help one another, and for overall morale to climb skyward. Relationships can falter and collapse in the absence of honesty and vulnerability. We may not know when those around us are exercising either of those traits, but we ourselves can practice them and ensure that we are trustworthy.

Communication specialist David Grossman suggests six steps to establish and maintain trust.On the surface, many of these steps seem as simple as the aforementioned idiom to “be yourself.” But, in practice, just as Frei noted, exercising seemingly simple advice can prove curiously challenging in different contexts. First we must be deserving of that trust–and to achieve this, we must adhere to other proverbs like “practice what you preach.” We must be consistent and accountable–we must do what we say we will do, thus proving reliability. In today’s miasma of distrust, remember that what’s important is that the people we’re closest to — trust us.

“Trust is earned when actions meet words.”

— Chris Butler

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