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.