“Trustworthy” is the first character attribute mandated by the Scout Law. Trust is the foundation of any solid relationship, be it business, marriage, or friendship. But why is trust so vitally important?
My kids know that I don’t get really angry over much. But there’s one thing that infuriates me, and that’s lying. Lying, cheating, stealing – anything dishonest or untrustworthy. I’ll go to the mat for them if they screw up, provided they’re honest and make a sincere effort to put things right – to not make the same mistakes over and over again. But lying? Huh uh. No way.
My son came home from school, one day, worried I’d be angry with him. Some kid had been picking on him and he’d finally had enough – he said a four-letter word banned by the school’s code of conduct. It was a bad one, but if I’d been faced with the kind of harassment this kid was dishing out, I’d have probably said worse. “Now he says he’s going to tell on me for using profanity, if I report him for bullying.”
I thought about this long and hard. “Go to the assistant principal and confess all. Tell him what you said and why you said it.”
“That’s right. ‘Shit’ isn’t a nice word, people may think less of you for using it, and it’s against school rules – but it isn’t illegal. Extortion is. They can give you detention – but the other kid committed a crime.”
Not that I figured the other kid deserved to do hard time, but I was pretty sure the assistant principal would be amused, and it would be a “teachable moment.”
That night, my son told me what happened. He was grinning. “I told Mr. G. about saying that word, and why, and you know what he said?”
“He said, ‘It happens.’ And then he sent me to class.” The other kid got summoned to the principal’s office for bullying classmates.
In business – especially online business – trust is essential. Who is going to buy goods or services from someone they don’t trust – particularly when they are asked to provide sensitive personal data on ordering? Who would enter into the simplest contract with someone they didn’t trust? A contract is a promise to do something – to sell, to buy, to perform.
A lot has been written about how to build trust. Whole books are written on the subject. To me, it’s very simple: Never say, “Trust me.” Avoid starting your sentences with the words, “honestly” or “to be honest with you.” Few things make people question your honesty than your own insistence on it. Simply do what you say you’ll do, every time, barring circumstances that are truly beyond your control. If you fail, make it right – as quickly as you can. To gain trust, be trustworthy, consistent, and dependable. Let others spread the news of your reliability on your behalf.
Do that consistently, over time, and your reputation for trustworthiness will grow and solidify. There are no shortcuts.