Why everything we do is based on Trust and how Trust defines success

  • September 25, 2019
  • John Barclay
hands building trust

What do communities, nations and entire cultures have in common? All are built of groups of people with a common set of values and beliefs.

The survival of humanity depends on the ability to surround ourselves with people who believe what we believe. When we’re surrounded by people who believe what we believe something remarkable happens:

Trust emerges.

The reason trust is important is because we’re more confident to take risks. We’re more confident to experiment, which also requires the right to fail. Trust is a willingness to be vulnerable. You choose to take risks and be vulnerable to the other party. That means if someone says, “I trust you.” it means “I’m willing to be vulnerable to you.” “I’m willing to take that risk.”

We are more confident to go off and explore knowing that there is someone to watch our back.

Here is a fascinating example we can all relate to:

Let’s imagine we’re going out for dinner. So, we require a babysitter for our children. There are two options. The first option is the 16-year old neighbour who has no babysitting experience, but we have known her for ages. The second option is a 32-year old woman who just moved into the area. We don’t know her, but she is highly qualified because she’s got 10 years of babysitting experience.

Who do we choose? No doubt we would choose the 16-year-old because we know her, and she is from within our community. We choose her over somebody with vast amounts of experience, but we’ve no idea where she is from or what she believes.

Trust is dynamic and most of all, trust is indispensable.

Especially when we meet strangers for the first time, deciding whom to trust really can be a challenge.

When we meet people for the first time, we look for signals of authority, of competence.

Also, when we meet others for the first time, we tend to listen a lot to what others have to say about them. Their reputation. In fact, prior information we have about somebody else can have such a strong influence on our expectations that we entirely ignore how this person really behaves.

We ignore somebody’s trustworthy behaviour towards us when we already expect him or her to be untrustworthy.

Why is it necessary to overcome those negative expectation and bias and how can we free us from it?

There is a cognitive skill that is crucial for these behaviours, and that is perspective-taking or theory of mind. We need to take the perspective of the other person, put ourselves in their shoes. We need to think about what the other person wants, feels, plans, believes or knows. We can only achieve that if we think about something like, “Well, maybe there might be different reasons why the other person behaved the way she or he did.” Also, for coaxing others back into trusting us, we need to consider, “Well, yes, maybe the other person has lost trust in us.”

Not surprisingly, new scientific findings show that the areas of the brain involved in the process of taking other’s perspective are also important during trust-based interactions.

So, taken together, trust is not something we can just switch on. Trust is an inherently dynamic process. Saying “I trust you” or “Trust me” is not the end of the story; it is only the beginning.

But trust is more than that. Trust is indispensable, and trust is not really something that is just nice to have; it’s not the cherry on the pie. Without trust, cooperation, interactions, trust-based relationships could never be established.

Another benefit of trust is that we need trust to recognize signs of distrust. It seems though, and that is what psychological research suggests, that people who tend to trust others less are also less capable of recognising when others are hurt or huffed. They don’t recognize signs of distrust, and therefore, they’re less capable and less willing to repair relationships to coax others back into trusting them. Because of that, their cooperation really breaks down more quickly.

We genuinely enjoy being trusted. When other people place trust in us, this makes us feel good, it makes us feel good about ourselves. Initial evidence from new scientific studies shows that our brains seem to inherently reward us for being trusted. It goes even further. Our brains not only reward us for being trusted, but also for being trustworthy. We genuinely enjoy behaving in a trustworthy manner. We don’t want to breach others’ trust; we want to reciprocate, to do right by others.

We need trust to establish, to maintain and to repair relationships. Trust empowers us and we can empower others by trusting them.

What does that mean for businesses?

Research shows that the things that cause business success more than anything else are relationships. The relationships between businesses, between employees and bosses, between companies and their customers, between suppliers and companies. Relationships happen to be the essence that drives company performance and efficiency effectiveness.  The essence of relationships is trust.

Some of the research showed mistrust more than doubles the cost of doing business. One research sample showed that high-trust companies outperform low-trust companies by nearly 200%. Every single time trust increased (even just a little bit), output, morale, retention, productivity, innovation, loyalty went up while real cost, time, and stress went down.

Think about innovation, you’ve got a team you trust, you’ll share ideas. Creativity goes up.

The single most important metric of success comes down to trust.

Your credit score is a trust score. The more a lender trusts you, the less you pay for the loan. Everything’s tied to trust. There’s even research that shows in countries where citizens trust each other more, poverty is less, and vice versa. It is called the Edelman Trust Barometer.


It’s worth considering what a lack of trust costs you every single day because it’s more than you might think.

Credits to Anne Boeckler Raettig, David Horsager, Frances Frei, Simon Sinek, and James Davis