Can we please stop talking about trust

Can we please stop talking about trust

Can we please stop talking about trust like it is a thing we do. Actually I’d like to stop using the word altogether in a business context.

Personally I prefer to use the word associated with the old Norse root of the word “traust” – confidence, as suggested by my friend Peter Tunjic. All in all it seems like a better fit for what organisations need to cultivate.

But for the purposes of this piece I’ll settle for people getting a bit of grip and dialing down the rhetoric around the topic overall.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about values and one of the points I made is that trust (along with honesty and integrity) are what I describe as societal values – that when they are absent things go pear-shaped fairly quickly. Without them we can’t really trade or have any kind of relationship.

Like so many others, the conversation about trust starts in the wrong place. “How can we get people to trust us”, assumes it is a thing you do and that once you tick that box everything will be fine.

It just doesn’t work that way. It’s an outcome and you don’t get to decide. It’s my choice whether I trust you.

There’s another layer to this, which I call trust given, trust earned. Most of us fall into either of the two camps when it comes to our interpersonal relationships, but when it comes to companies it’s pretty much trust given from the outset – otherwise we’d never buy anything from anyone.

So I’ll extend you a modicum of trust (trust given), enough to open the door even though the evidence for why I should believe you is still pretty thin on the ground. You could call it trust on L plates.

We’re going to go for a drive together and I’ll see how you go. If I like what I feel, if you’ve set expectations for our relationship clearly, if you do what you say, if you don’t lie to me, if you are fair and consistent in how you deal with me, then we might get to take another longer drive. You will have earned my trust. But fail to do any one of those things and it’s going to be a tough road back.

When all the shouting about trust is done there is really only one thing you need to do if you want to get and keep my trust. Keep your promises. That’s it.

All those brand trust indexes out there should be “promises” indexes. All that time organisations spend trying to figure out how to build trust would be far better dedicated to a conscious and deliberate exploration of the promises they are making. All the talk about trust would be better used in discussions about their promises and how they are going to keep them.

Do that and you won’t need to even think about being trusted – because you will be. And as for putting trust on the core values list – well if you’ve got to say it then…

See you next week.

P.S. If you’d like to dig into the whole trust thing a bit more there is a great article on the topic here.

Michel is an independent brand analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan



Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments