Where Has Trust Gone?

Blog by Tracy Stock, CSP

While I was attending the National Speakers Association’s Annual Conference, there was a keynote speaker who asked an interesting question related to trust: Which sector is most trusted for its leadership?

According to his research, here are the results in order of highest level of trust to lowest:

  1. Nonprofit organizations
  2. Business
  3. Education
  4. International organizations
  5. Healthcare
  6. News media
  7. Government
  8. Religious organizations

What’s even more interesting is another statistic that was shared: “Trust in others and confidence in institutions, two key indicators of social capital, reached historic lows among Americans in 2012 in two nationally representative surveys that have been administered since the 1970s.” (Twenge, Campbell and Carter 2014)

Where has trust gone? It appears to be vanishing by the day. High level leaders and powerful influencers are constantly featured in the news today for lying, appearing to have little or even no remorse. From not being able to keep your doctor to patriots losing their lives, it is no wonder why we have a surging dishonestly epidemic. When top leaders demonstrate lying is okay, other leaders often follow suit, and followers are expected to fall in line.

If there is one thing my parents wouldn’t tolerate which I won’t either, is lying. Lying isn’t a mistake or something we accidently do. Lying is the conscious act of intentionally deceiving someone. It hurts countries, organizations and relationships of all kinds.

So why do people lie? According to experts, people lie because they can get away with it, because it works for them. It’s a way to get along with other people. It’s a way to control their world, and it’s a way that they can make other people do what they want them to do.

So how do we stop this ever-growing “lack of trust” trend? As there is no quality or characteristic that is more important than trust. It takes years to build, second to break, and forever to repair.

If you want to reverse the negative trust trajectory and instead work toward building it, here are 10 ways to begin making that shift happen:

  1. Tell the truth. Always. Don’t lie. Ever.
  2. Communicate.  Frequent honest and open communication builds trust.
  3. When you falter, admit it. Be willing to share your mistakes and faults.
  4. Demonstrate care and concern toward others. When people realize you care about their interests as much as your own, they will more likely trust you.
  5. Say what you are going to do and then do what you say!
  6. Focus on each interaction—one at a time. Each interaction either adds or subtracts from the current level of trust.
  7. Value long term relationships more than short term success.
  8. Demonstrate vulnerability and transparency. By not hiding your authentic self, you’ll often radiate trust. 
  9. Uphold confidentiality. Don’t break promises by sharing private information with others.
  10. Guide others and look for ways to help people. These actions often lead to earning trust.

As Dr. Brene Brown says, accomplished author and research professor from the University of Houston, “The key ingredient to building trust is courage.” Demonstrate the strength and moral fortitude to align yourself with those you trust, and watch your relationships prosper.