Trust is a tricky thing. When you’ve got someone’s trust it’s great: you can sell them more stuff, get more favors, ask for more, and generally benefit a great deal. But when someone doesn’t trust you, forget about it, you’re in big trouble.

So what do we know about trust? Turns out a lot! After years of research and 73,000+ responses to a trust quiz, we compiled a list of the Top 6 Facts About Trust.

  1. Trust = Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy + Self-Orientation
    Trust can be measured across four key factors, including credibility, reliability, intimacy and self-orientation. Credibility is all about what we say, our skills and credentials. Reliability is all about the actions we take and our predictability. Intimacy is tied to how comfortable people are confiding in us, and our empathy. And self-orientation is about ego.  Learn more about The Trust Equation here.
  2. Expertise Does NOT Equal Trust
    Your expertise in something doesn’t guarantee people will trust you. So overemphasizing your expertise isn’t always the best way to succeed.
  3. Balance is Good
    People are considered more trustworthy when they rank all four trust components very close together. So the more balanced you are along the four trust components, the better. If you’re super credible but not intimate at all, trust drops.
  4. Most People Aren’t Balanced
    Survey results show that most people do emphasize 1 or 2 trust components more heavily than others. For 53% of respondents to the survey, Reliability was ranked as the highest. Intimacy and Self-Orientation ranked lowest at 28%. It turns out we think we’re reliable, but we don’t want to get too close to people and we’ve got big egos! Sounds about right to me!
  5. We All Think We’re Experts
    Even though expertise is the least effective strategy for gaining someone’s trust, it’s the one that people use the most often. People like to define themselves by their expertise and skills. But it looks like we’re not impressing a whole lot of people … at least when it comes to trust.
  6. Trust Can Be Taught
    If you’re not trustworthy, don’t worry. You can be saved. Trust can be taught, by focusing on your weaknesses in any of the four trust components. Actually, intimacy skills are the most easily taught. We’re talking about soft skills here — let’s keep this out of the bedroom! Truth is, it’s easier to learn to listen and to empathize (i.e. intimacy) than it is to gain an advanced degree (credibility / expertise).

So now that you know the Top 6 Facts about Trust, you can use them to improve your own trustworthiness … or do a better job of faking it! Trust matters. Don’t forget it. You’ll sell more, get better jobs, find better looking dates (OK, I don’t have scientific proof on that one, but it sounds good!) and succeed overall. So get intimate, keep the ego in check, don’t focus too much on your expertise — and you’ll be all set!

For more learning and tools on building trust:
1) Take the Trust Quotient Quiz

2) Read Our White Paper: Think More Expertise Will Make You More Trusted? Think Again

3) Read Article:  Ten Myths about Selling Intangible Services

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Build deeper trust with your clients and colleagues


The pragmatic, field-oriented follow-on to the classic The Trusted Advisor. Green and Howe go deep into the how-to’s of trusted business relationships—loaded with stories, exercises, tips and tricks, and deeply practical advice.


TrustBasedSelling“Sales” and “Trust” rarely inhabit the same sentence. Customers fear being “sold” — they suspect sellers have only their own interests at heart. Is this a built-in conflict? Or can sellers serve buyers’ interests and their own as well? The solution is simple to state, hard to live—and totally worth the effort.



The Trusted AdvisorThis classic book explores the paradigm of trust through the filter of professional services. It is a blend of thought and practice, clear ideas and practical suggestions, and it has found a place on many professionals’ working bookshelves.