What exactly is trust? According to Merriam-Webster, trust is defined as “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.” For many of us, it is one of those things that are somewhat ethereal because you can’t “see” or “feel” it. It is not about doing a trust fall; rather, it is that person that “has your back” or that you can count on no matter what.
You should be in the center of your Circle of Trust, and the only people who should be in your Circle of Trust are those whom you trust. The people who are closest to you, whom you can confide in, and with whom you share unquestionable trust are the ones who are closest to you in your inner circle. You likely have various ‘circles’ or bands of trust within the circle, reflecting the degree of closeness and confidence you have with multiple people in your life. Remember–just because you know someone does not mean they should be in your circle.
If you have a reasonable level of self-esteem and a basic level of trust in yourself and others (let’s call it 70% trust for them), it means that you increase trust based on evidence and consistency over time. In contrast, you decrease trust when recognizing there is a boundary bust or clash in values.
Some acquaintances (but not necessarily all) sit right on the peripheries. They are not in your Circle of Trust, but as your interactions progress and you get to know them, some may enter your ‘circle’.
Outside your Circle of Trust is the rest of the world–strangers, not well personally known acquaintances, and ‘threats’ (including enemies). Threats may include people who may be used to being in your circle somewhere but have shown that they cannot be trusted and are possibly still trying to move back into it.
If somebody has been allowed into your Circle of Trust and they have taken advantage of or even abused you, they shouldn’t be in there (boundaries must be enforced), and it should take a whole lot for that person to be allowed back in. There would need to be consistent evidence over time, and they should not be granted an ‘inner circle’ status immediately or too quickly. If you do not trust someone, they should not be in your Circle of Trust.
This also means that how you interact with this person should reflect the lack of trust and/or knowledge. For instance, sticking with someone whom you cannot trust should come with a major hazard warning. There should not be anyone in your inner circle with whom you do not have a mutually fulfilling relationship with care, trust, and respect–no exceptions.
Basically, phase in trust so that you have time to experience evidence of it consistently.
If you do not trust anyone, it means that everyone has ‘stranger status’ regardless of whether they are strangers or not. You cannot ‘acclimatize’ to healthy trust levels if you do not learn how to trust and rein in trust. Trust is based on results, not hope. If you do not trust anyone, including yourself, it means that you have no Circle of Trust.
The key thing to recognize is that everyone’s Circle of Trust is different. I would place strangers outside of my circle. However, it doesn’t mean that I’m distrusting; but judging by the number of tales I hear about virtual and casual relationships, some people have strangers in their circle or even their inner circle. Unless you would trust these people with all your worldly goods or even your life support machine, they should not be there.
Trust is like a muscle; the more you use it and learn from the feedback of each interaction and experience, the stronger it gets. It is critical that you differentiate your relationships healthily by maintaining reasonable boundaries.
In essence, trust is a feeling of security that you have, based on the belief that someone or something is knowledgeable, reliable, good, honest, and effective.
Trust is both an emotional and logical act. Emotionally, it is where you expose your concerns and vulnerabilities to people, believing they will not take advantage of your openness. Logically, it is where you have assessed the probabilities of gain and loss, calculating expected outcomes based on performance data, and concluded that the person in question would behave predictably.
Trust is a bit of both. I trust you because I have experienced your trustworthiness and because I have faith in human nature. Emotions associated with trust include companionship, friendship, love, agreement, relaxation, comfort.
Here are a few techniques to build a Circle of Trust at your organization:
Hire the Right People. Hire and promote people who can form positive, trusting, interpersonal relationships with people who report to them. The leader’s relationship with their team is the fundamental building block of trust.
Establish strong company values that employees can understand and know how to practice. This will increase their sense of belonging, purpose, and security. In addition, establishing strong company values helps employees know that their work is important and meaningful. This will create the evolution of your culture.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Provide as much information as you can comfortably share as soon as possible in any situation. When employees believe that information is not equitably shared or does not consider all perspectives on an issue, you are very unlikely to be able to create the trust you need for effective or sustainable engagement.
Respect your employees. While obvious, it is incredibly important that the tone, content, and facilitation of your engagement efforts are inclusive of everyone and genuinely respect all your employees’ input–even if it’s sometimes difficult.
“Trust is not a matter of technique, but of character; we are trusted because of our way of being, not because of our polished exteriors or our expertly crafted communications.” – Marsha Sinetar
You can build a Circle of Trust and a culture of trust in your workplace. You build trust through all your actions and every interaction you have with coworkers and employees. You build trust one step at a time. Remember this–and thrive.