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Who Can You Trust?

The foundation of every coach-client relationship is trust. On second thought, the foundation of any healthy relationship is trust. Building and maintaining trust empowers persons to share concerns, hopes, challenges and dreams in ways that expand possibilities.

So what is trust? How do we develop and maintain it? How might evaluating the level of trust within an important relationship reduce stress and assist in achieving our goals?

Trust's Characteristics

While not an all-inclusive list, trust includes:

  1. Behaviors that reflect dependence on another.

  2. Belief in the likelihood a person will behave in certain ways.

  3. Feeling of confidence that another person cares.

  4. Mental perspective that the other person is dependable.

  5. Mutuality. Trust is shared.

When these characteristics exist, we experience a sense of security with another person, especially during times of vulnerability. The deeper the level of trust the more willing we are to share our inner thoughts, concerns and hopes free from fear of humiliation and shame. We feel ‘known’ by the other person and accepted for who we really are. Trust allows us to hear different perspectives and beliefs in ways that enrich our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Qualities of Trust

In his 2018 Forbes’ article, Dr. Dennis Jaffe shares the following six qualities of trust that one can use to assess a given relationship.

1. Reliability and Dependability: A person or group fulfills their commitments.

2. Transparency: Unknowns make people anxious and lead them to assume the worst. Partial disclosure of important information and hidden agendas cause teams and family members to become distrustful. When people share their thoughts, feelings, and considerations, or when an organization, usually through its leader, tells its members what is going on, everyone knows where they stand and trust can flourish.

3. Competency: If you think a person, leader or organization is incapable of doing what they are supposed to do, you cannot trust them. Therefore, even when a person has a good heart or good intentions and we like them, they cannot win our trust if they’re not capable of doing what they promise.

4. Sincerity, Authenticity and Congruency: People sense when someone says something that is not aligned with what they are feeling inside. A leader who says one thing but who acts differently is not congruent. It is hard to believe someone who says they want to listen but does not give you a chance to speak. People may think they can hide their true feelings or contradictions, but others can detect a lack of sincerity or congruency. That’s when trust is eroded.

5. Fairness: Some people act as if the needs and desires of others are not important, or they don’t truly listen to or respect both sides. Trust cannot grow in a relationship where it’s all about one person or in a workplace where all the energy is focused on the company or leader.

6. Openness and Vulnerability: If a person never says they are wrong or never apologizes or acknowledges their mistakes, other people do not feel comfortable disagreeing with them or sharing their own thoughts. A leader who is “never wrong” never gets the truth from others. Yet a timely apology or admission of being wrong is a powerful weapon to build or rebuild trust.

Trust as an Assessment Tool


Throughout the various leadership positions I have held in my career, I considered trust my single most important capital. Trust is especially important when working with volunteers since they have greater choice whether to continue volunteering than a paid employee dependent on a paycheck.

If you’re struggling with a relationship or sense ‘something’s changed’ take a moment and reflect on the level of trust using each of Dr. Jaffe’s six qualities of trust. Does one quality stand out as needing attention? How might you go about the courageous work of building/restoring trust? What challenges exist, such as honoring confidentiality, that complicate the process of deepening/restoring trust?

In some cases, you may discover that trust has eroded to the point that an objective third party is needed to guide the restoration process. When this happens, both parties must desire restoration of trust for efforts to be effective.

My clients trust that I will honor my commitment to confidentiality and my commitment to their success. Without my clients’ trust in these two commitments, my coaching is ineffective. If you need support in rebuilding or strengthening trust with an important person or team, schedule a free Welcome to Coaching Session with me today and let’s explore possibilities.

Whether you’re evaluating the level of trust with a family member, friend, staff member or leadership team, the time you spend and the resulting action steps you implement will reduce your stress level and create opportunities for achieving your goals. It’s worth the effort.

Trust me.

Keep thriving.


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