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Why Having a Trustworthy Reputation is Everything

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about Why Building Trust is So Important. Today I want to focus on why it is so important to keep that trust — why a trustworthy reputation is everything, in your private life and your business relationships.

Think of two people. For the first person, imagine someone you trust explicitly, someone you’d entrust with your most treasured possessions or most sensitive information.

If you can’t think of a specific person, make up someone. Now, think of someone you trust so little that you wouldn’t loan him or her a ball point pen.

Unfortunately this person is often easier to conjure up than someone you trust. But if you can’t think of a specific case, make up someone.

Got two people in mind? Now, give each person this test:

  1. Does he or she tell their truth?
  2. Does he or she keep agreements?
  3. Does he or she stand by you under pressure?

I’ll wager that for your first person, the trustworthy one, you answered “yes” for every question. And for your second person the answer was “no” to every question.

These three questions are great tools for predicting trustworthiness. Let’s examine why.

Why don’t we trust liars? It’s not just because they lie, but because they lie to us!

When someone lies to me, I assume he does it with good reason. I also assume the reason is manipulative — that his reason for lying is to keep me in relationship with him so he can game me.

Such people fear I won’t stay in the relationship if they tell me the truth. In some cases they might be right.

This fear fuels the whole range of lying from nasty lies (like con artists tell) to white lies (as in, “I just wanted to be nice. I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.” And all sorts of lies in between.

Why don’t we trust people who break agreements? Simple. Because they leave us holding the bag.

When people don’t keep agreements, our confidence in them goes down. We cease to view them as assets to us and begin viewing them as liabilities.

And, finally, why don’t we trust people who abandon us when the pressure is on? Easy — because it’s under pressure when we need other people the most! The ultimate test of integrity is the congruence of a person’s words and deeds.

Those three questions are a simple and reliable litmus test of trustworthiness and integrity. Apply them to yourself now.

Get Started With This Week’s 5-Minute Stretch

Reflect on the following:

  1. Do you always tell your truth (meaning what’s true for you) or do you attempt to shape and control what you want others to think?
  2. Before making even a tiny agreement, do you consider whether you truly intend to keep it? Do you act on your intentions or do you deny them? (See reflection number 1.)
  3. Do you see your partners’ pressures as opportunities to demonstrate your support or as signals to hide?

Add your story

What’s your best or worst experience dealing with trust? I want to know.

Leaders and coaches: Get Christopher’s best team building and leadership strategies collected over two-plus decades of solving teamwork problems for smart people. Attend the acclaimed Creating Results-Based Teams workshop, or get this FREE Special Report while it lasts: The Five Flawless Steps to Building a Strong Executive Leadership Team.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

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3 Responses to Why Having a Trustworthy Reputation is Everything

  1. Pingback: Five Blogs – 25 January 2013 « 5blogs

  2. Mark says:

    Another very interesting read Christopher. Thank you. In my experience I can’t really think of anyone that potentially doesn’t lie in one way or another….oops tell a lie, my sister doesn’t, but to say someone lie’s would be to ask a question or questions that they’d be hesitant to answer due to losing face…I myself have been guilty of this in the past but I presently do all I can not to anymore as I believe to be yourself, true and just enables us all to know who we are.

    May I ask Christopher, have you ever lied or deceived someone knowing the truth but because a specific question hasn’t been ask of you, you then have no need to lie.

    I personally believe that regardless of knowledge that we may or may not be privy to we sometimes can have overwhelming feelings that their’s more to someone or something without correct words or questions being asked than meets the eye.

    Thanks for sharing once again.


    • christopher says:

      Of course you can ask Mark. And yes, of course I’ve told lies of all types, white, blatant, bald-face, and otherwise.

      Today, and for many years, my personal policy is to tell my truth as effectively and openly as I can. There are times when my truth is “I will not share that information with you.” And there are times my truth is “Are you sure you want to hear what I really think.” I believe the main thing is not whether I am telling the radical-honesty truth, but whether I am gaming (lying, deceiving, withholding, manipulating) the other party in order to limit their freedom, power, and choice.

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