Five Misconceptions about Trust in Business: Part 1

There are many misconceptions about trust that pervade how we think about professional relationships. While most seem harmless (think about Ronald Reagan’s admonition to trust, but verify), unless they are examined and dispelled, they will impede real trust.

This blog series describes five of the most common – and most dangerous – misconceptions about trust:

  1. Trust must be earned
  2. Trust takes time to build and is quickly lost
  3. Clients just want you to solve their problem
  4. Clients will trust you if you give good advice
  5. Having the right answer is critical


I often start workshops by asking if the people there trust me, and why. One reason I commonly hear from those who don’t is, “Trust is earned.” While that mindset is pervasive, it’s an unfounded misconception that often hinders relationships before they start.

Quite simply, withholding all trust until it’s “earned” would make it nearly impossible to collaborate or have meaningful transactions with others. A complete lack of trust impedes communication and progress.

The reality is that in most business situations, we extend at least some level of trust from the very first interaction with someone new. Trust is the default that allows any productive conversation or collaboration to occur.

Trust is not “All-or-Nothing”

Once I’ve introduced myself, at least a few more people will say they trust me, but in a limited capacity based on my role as a workshop facilitator.

Trust is contextual – it can exist in varying degrees for different situations or aspects of a relationship. In other words, I trust the UPS driver to deliver my packages, but not to babysit my grandchildren.

Of course, egregious violations like unethical conduct or repeated untrustworthiness can sever trust completely. But more often, trust exists even if it’s fragile at first. The opportunity is to nurture it into something more resilient.

The Trust Is Already There – Now Build Upon It

To be trusted, you must also be willing to trust. Extending trust upfront creates an environment for more open communication and creates opportunity for personal connection – the foundation for any trusted advisor relationship. Withholding trust, meanwhile, can spark defensive tendencies and strain the relationship before it starts.

The key is to approach new relationships not from a deficit requiring trust to be painstakingly earned, but instead looking to build upon and validate the trust that already exists. It’s a mindset shift, but one that facilitates much stronger collaboration and relationships.

Finally, remember that many people are willing to trust others until proven untrustworthy, rather than requiring trust to be earned first. Taking the risk of granting trust first demonstrates vulnerability and opens the door for the other person to reciprocate and validate that trust.

UP NEXT – Come back tomorrow to read about the second misconception: Trust takes time to build and is quickly lost.

Trust-Based Resources to Maximize Your Team’s Potential:

2 replies
  1. Charles H Green
    Charles H Green says:

    So true. If we are seen not to trust others, why should they trust us? A trust-based relationship begins with one who is willing to trust, not with the one who is (passively) trustworthy. If you want to be trusted, take the initiative by trusting the other.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *