Trust is a funny thing. I interviewed a retired Chicago advertising executive who explained it’s built up slowly over time, yet can vanish in an instant. Trust is often talked about in a business sense “I trust her. When she calls with a recommendation, I just say ‘yes’ and follow her advice.”

Trust can develop first in a social setting, paving the way to doing business. When you ask a friend to become a client, they often have an answer ready. Why? Because they “tried you on for size” in their mind beforehand. They might even have had a conversation with their spouse: “Should we trust him with our money?” So, how do you build trust in social situations?

What Is Trust?

Let’s go to the dictionary. Merriam Webster describes trust as “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something.” They also say “One in whom confidence is placed.” Those are the traits we want to demonstrate.

12 Ways to Build Trust in Social Situations

If trust is earned a little at a time, in social situations, where do you start?

1. Your client’s interests come first. You were late leaving the office because a client had a problem. You stayed either until it was resolved or you got the ball rolling. You seem distracted because a client is facing a difficult situation. You are trying to figure out how you can help.

Why: Ability. If they were shopping for an advisor, everyone would want someone who placed the client’s interests before their own. If a ship was sinking, they want someone who puts the passengers into lifeboats before themselves.

2. Confidentiality. Your friends have figured out you work with some of the people in your shared social circle. They ask questions. You explain why you cannot answer. You might add the door only swings one way. Clients can talk about their relationship with their advisor all they want. You can’t say a word.

Why: Ability. You respect confidentiality. Your clients can depend on you to keep their secrets.

3. You don’t gossip. This builds on confidentiality. Friends enjoy talking about people who aren’t present, especially when it’s negative in tone. You don’t engage. You might explain it’s not right to talk about people behind their backs.

Why: Character. OK, it might make you sound like prude, but people realize if you talk about others behind their backs, it implies you will talk about this friend when they are absent.

4. Be true to your word. It’s an example of that incremental buildup. Be on time for appointments and get-togethers. If you say you will send or text papers or pictures, do what you promised.

Why: Ability. Your word is your bond. If you say you will do something, they can “take it to the bank.”

5. Return borrowed items in the same or better condition. You borrowed your neighbor’s leaf blower. Return it with the gas tank filled. You borrowed their shovel. The handle broke while using it as a lever to unearth a rock. Buy them a new shovel.

Why: Character. If your friend extended themselves lending a serviceable item, you give one back in good condition. They might think replacing something is “over the top” but they will not forget it.

6. Follow the rules. Don’t cut corners. Don’t imply some rules apply to others, but not to you.

Why: Truth. Rules apply to everyone. There aren’t two sets of books. You don’t make money at the expense of others.

7. Don’t cheat. You play golf together. Don’t cheat to get a better score. Don’t park in handicapped spaces, figuring you won’t get caught.

Why: Character. Basketball Hall of Fame coach John Wooden said: “The true test of a man’s character is what he will do when no one is watching.”

8. Pay up, settle up. Dinner bills are often split immediately. There may be circumstances where people pay later. You were high bid at a charity auction. Settle your bill that night or the next day. You went to a restaurant that’s cash only. You forgot. They covered the bill. Pay up the next day.

Why: Character. You aren’t hoping people will forget. When it comes to money, people have long memories, even for small amounts.

9. Don’t laugh about stocks, investor behavior or the markets. If someone tells you about an investment that went south, don’t laugh, even if they make light of the situation. Don’t have an “easy come, easy go” attitude towards the markets.

Why: Strength. You take your job seriously. You treat a client’s money with the same care you give your own.

10. Show commitment to your career. This is your job. You love it. You consider helping clients an honor and a responsibility. I once met the former head of the Bank of England. He said many people get into the financial services business hoping to get rich. They should be considering it an honor to help people prepare for their retirements.

Why: Strength. You are demonstrating you are doing something you love. You are in it for the long term.

11. Respect spouses. Too often, people in sales identify the decision maker and play up to them. (This happens in fundraising, too.) The spouse is ignored. Treat them equally.

Why: Character. Everyone wants to be treated with dignity and respect.

12. Don’t lie. Exaggeration fits in here, too. Try to only say things you can document, in the unlikely event you are challenged.

Why: Truth. People like people who are truthful.

People often talk about integrity and ethics. It’s all tied into trust. Trust is something you can build, but it takes time.

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