Embrace Possibility 101 Simple Ways to Build Trust

101 Simple Ways to Build Trust

The most valuable asset you can have is trust. It allows for flow and openness. When there is no trust, it becomes harder to get anything done. Think of one of your relationships where there is a lot of trust. Now think of another one with very little trust.

Which one do you prefer?

We can all be better off with more trust in our lives and I'm going to show you a "few" things you can do to build that trust.

Please note: My definition of "client" is anyone that has a relationship with you. This can be your spouse, your boss, your customer, your friend, etc.

Before we look at the different ways you can build trust, let's look at the benefits of trust:

You become influential - people will seek you out for advice and follow your recommendations without much persuading.

You get valuable information - your clients will open up to you when they trust you. They'll give you valuable information and feedback.

You can serve your clients more effectively - with access to insider information (#2), you can get to the root of the problem and really make a difference for your client.

You will get more business - people refer you when they trust you. This leads to high quality leads. Would you refer someone you didn't trust?

You get less stressed - when your clients trust you, they give you the benefit of the doubt. Whether you're running late for a meeting or hanging out late with friends, it's less stressful to know that people will be understanding and forgiving.

You avoid bigger problems - with trust, your clients will communicate with you earlier on and warn you of any issues they are seeing. With enough trust, your clients will go out of their way to protect you.

You have more effective negotiations - research has shown that subjects who thought they were collaborators struck better deals than subjects who thought they were competitors. Surprise, surprise.

Now that you see the benefits of getting trust, here are a 101 ways to build trust (no particular order):

How to Build Trust

1. Be honest - if you tell the truth, your clients will trust you. Always be honest especially when no one is looking.

2. Respect your client - treat your clients with the same respect you would show the President of your country. Respect their time as well by never being late. If you need help being on time, check out How to Always Be On Time.

3. Sincerely care - when you truly care about others, it is hard not to trust you.

4. Ask open-ended questions - learn more about your client and be interested in their answers. Open-ended questions give your client the opportunity to tell you about themselves. Ask more questions based on the answers that you get.

5. Don't be perfect - there is always something fishy about someone who seems to have everything going for them. Don't waste your energy hiding your mistakes or weaknesses. This sends a message that you're not hiding anything and that you want to build trust.

6. Don't look at your watch - we're all on a tight schedule but looking at your watch when someone is talking is rude. If you must be wary of the time, ask for permission to look at your watch.

7. Find the win-win - in negotiations, always look for the win-win outcome. Win-lose outcomes are one-time only events. When both parties win, you strengthen the relationship.

8. Don't hedge your answers - be definitive when you can. When you hedge your answers, you are giving yourself an "out". How can anyone trust you when you keep dodging responsibility. Politicians are notorious for hedging their answers. How much do you trust your politician?

9. Have your clients best interests in mind - clients know when you are looking out for them and when you are looking out for yourself. It's hard to trust you when there is a conflict of interests.

10. Don't show off - it puts people off and you come off like a self promoter interested in your own success and not the success of others. This breeds resentment more than trust.

11. Ask others to endorse you - if you prove yourself trustworthy and you offer great products and services, don't be afraid to ask your clients to recommend you. It's easier for others to trust you if someone they already trust endorses you.

12. Paraphrase what was said - giving the information back to the client in your own words is a great way to show you were listening and to demonstrate your understanding. People trust others who take the time to listen.

13. Be transparent - I have issues trusting people or companies who are not fully transparent. For example: companies that deliberately hide their prices for their products and services.

14. Call your client - relationships get weaker if you don't nurture them. Call your clients on a periodic basis, not only when you need to sell them something.

15. Take responsibility - when something goes wrong and it's your fault, take responsibility right away and focus on the next steps. It's easier to trust someone who owns up to their mistakes.

16. Take whatever is being said seriously - don't dismiss another person's problem as being small or counter with the size of your own problems. Just listen. Whatever they are going through is real and serious for them and you should treat it as such.

17. Add value - value is what people are willing to pay for. Keep doing great work that adds value and others will reward you with trust.

18. Form a common enemy - when you focus on a common cause, it naturally builds trust and rapport to deal with the issue.

19. Be poised - its hard to trust someone who gets emotional easily. Breathing helps.

20. Empathize - acknowledge the feelings behind what is being said and show empathy. Your clients will trust you more when they feel that you understand them.

21. Make the client feel significant - this is a basic human need and if you fulfill it, people will trust you. Always be sincere when making your clients feel important. They can tell if you're faking it.

22. Be accessible - when people know they can get access to you, it builds trust because they can hold you accountable. People who I can't reach always seem less trustworthy to me.

23. Look people in the eye - if you constantly shift your eyes, it makes people suspicious of you.

24. Remove distractions - if you're meeting with clients, remove all distractions (turn off phone, computer screen, etc.) and give them your undivided attention.

25. Have high self-esteem - be comfortable with who you are. Don't try so hard to impress, it makes you look wishy-washy. Be careful about these other warning signs of low self-esteem.

26. Show commitment - when you show commitment, people trust you. Think of men who propose (and actually get married), employees who sign employment contracts and people who always show up when they say they will.

27. Say "I don't know" - admit that you don't know and say it upfront and direct. You'll get a lot of credibility for that.

28. Deliver what you promise - Do what you say you are going to do. This is one of the best ways to build trust.

29. Use a real picture - if you have an online presence, use a real picture of yourself. An authentic picture lets me know that you're not afraid to put yourself out there and you're willing to be responsible for what you write on your website and blog.

30. Be vulnerable - trust builds when you open up. Don't hide your human side, that's the side that people connect to.

31. Volunteer information - don't wait until someone follows up to give information that is important to them. Let them know as soon as you know.

32. Know your audience - make sure you use language that your client will understand. If you're not talking to a technical person, don't use technical language.

33. Take time to explain - when your client is confused, be patient and take time to help them understand. They'll appreciate you for it and reciprocate the next time you're confused.

34. Don't abuse privileges - as you gain more trust, you'll be given more privileges. Don't abuse those privileges.

35. Don't fidget - be aware of your body movements. Minimize your leg shakes, body shifts and hand fidgets. It's hard to trust someone who seems nervous or anxious.

36. Stay up-to-date - your clients' situation, preferences and needs change over time. It's up to you to keep up-to-date through proactive communication. Don't wait for your clients to update you.

37. Give proper feedback - if you want to build trust, you need to tell your client the truth when they make mistakes. "Yes Men" are not very trustworthy

38. Don't name-drop - you might think this will help build your credibility but when you a drop names, it's a turn off. It seems like you're using that person's name to compensate for your abilities. For better results, have others endorse you (#16).

39. Stand up for your client - if you feel your client is being taken advantage of in any way, stand up for them or at the very least, inform them of what's going on.

40. Make it personal - get out of the office and meet your clients face-to-face. You need to get personal to build deep trust.

41. Give good advice - if your advice helps people, they'll trust you and your advice even more.

42. Go ABCD - go Above and Beyond the Call of Duty. I didn't make the acronym up but ABCD is a great strategy for building trust. Always look for ways to over deliver.

43. Don't hard sell - You may have the best product or service out there that everyone can benefit from but no one likes to be sold to or feel forced to do things. Build a relationship, educate and persuade, not badger. Check out Permission Marketing by Seth Godin (affiliate) or my How to Sell with Integrity Series.

44. Share ideas - when you come across good ideas, share them with your clients. Share ideas that demonstrate your deep understanding of your clients' needs.

45. Return calls quickly - if someone leaves a message, call them back as soon as you can. This makes the other person feel important and makes them like and trust you more.

46. Be curious - ask questions and be genuinely interested to learn more. Resist taking over the conversation or trying to immediately solve the problem or issue.

47. Keep secrets - if a client tells you something confidential, keep it to yourself unless it violates your moral and ethical standards.

48. Don't over-explain - When you over-explain, you're trying to remove yourself from being responsible. This is one of the best ways to lose someone's trust.

49. Show compassion - step into the other person's shoes. When something bad happens to your clients, express your sympathies.

50. Value the relationship - show your client that you're in it for the long-term and demonstrate that you value the relationship. This may mean taking the first step in a compromise.

51. Ask for clarification - when asked a question, always clarify it before answering. Think Columbo - "I may be a little slow here..."

52. Know your outcome - if your goal is to build trust, then your desire to help the client should surpass your desire to be right or to win. Remember this next time you are trying to prove how right you are at the expense of your relationship to the client.

53. Don't use a "fake" voice - some people I know use a "professional" voice that isn't their own. Use your own voice. If you don't like how it sounds, get some voice lessons, they work.

54. Don't manipulate - it is possible to use the ideas on this list with the intention to manipulate. Don't do it because it won't end well. It never does.

55. Don't lie - one small lie can destroy a mountain of trust.

56. Understand that your client is unique - every person in this world is unique and should be treated as such. A one size fits all approach rarely works.

57. Don't finish other people's sentences - even if they are taking a long time at it, be patient and let them say it.

58. Don't try too hard - when you are overly servile or deferential, it can be fairly annoying. I find it hard to trust anyone who cannot think and act for themselves.

59. Never talk down to anyone - there is no situation where this is acceptable.

60. Be competent - always work to improve your skills. If you want to be trusted, you need to be competent. This is especially important in a leadership role. Think back to any bosses you've had that were incompetent. Did you trust them?

61. Say what you mean - if you think it's a bad idea, say so. When you build up a reputation of saying what you mean, people don't have to second guess what you're trying to say. This helps to increase your trustworthiness.

62. Focus on your similarities - highlight what you have in common with the other person. We like people who are similar and we trust people whom we like.

63. Listen attentively - Replay for the other person something that shows you've listened carefully. This is especially effective when you bring up and help someone with challenges they've told you about in previous conversations where they don't expect you to remember.

64. Think abundance - adopt the belief that there is enough for everyone and you are not in competition for limited resources. Actions that reflect this belief builds trust because you become more collaborative with those around you and work to raise people up as opposed to putting them down.

65. Send a birthday card - there is no better way to show that you care than to remember someone's birthday and to get them a nice card. In this internet age, a handwritten card goes a long way.

66. Give specific compliments - the more specific your compliment, the more sincere it usually is. It shows that you took time to notice.

67. Start and end meetings on time - if you set up a meeting, make sure the agenda is clear and that the meeting starts and more importantly, ends on time.

68. Be consistent - don't change your views on a whim. It makes people distrustful.

69. Read books related to emotional intelligence - How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman are good places to start.

70. Don't gossip - don't gossip about your clients, don't gossip about others to your clients.

71. Give freebies - if you sell a product or service, consider giving a free version of it. It allows you to help those without resources to access your expertise. Make sure your freebies are of high quality and valuable.

72. Remember names - there is nothing more interesting to us than our own names. Show that you remember the other person's name. If you need help, check out How to Remember Names Even If You Have Bad Memory.

73. Trust others first - people treat you the way you treat them. Give trust first if you want to get trust.

74. Be comfortable with silence - don't feel obligated to fill in the silence. I know it can be uncomfortable but let the other person think through their ideas and allow them to break the silence first.

75. Be responsive - if someone is unable to reach you, make sure you respond within 24 hours with an acknowledgment or have a auto-reply message explaining the exact times when you can be reached.

76. Have integrity - stick to your beliefs and values no matter what. Check out this article on the Importance of Keeping Integrity in the Workplace.

77. Allow others to help you - sometimes we are so focused on giving that we do not allow others to give to us. Doing this robs them of the joy of giving. Let others give.

78. Don't blame - when things go wrong, don't point fingers. Empower yourself by taking responsibility and then determining what you're going to do next. Don't waste the present thinking about the past that can't be changed. A person that doesn't blame quickly gains the trust of others.

79. Be yourself - don't change who you are to please other people. It's tiring for everyone. If you don't know how to be yourself, check out this article by Chris Guillebeau.

80. Express emotions - "just the facts" may be appropriate during an investigation but when dealing with people, emotions add the human element which is key for building trust

81. Pay attention - be attentive to the body language to make sure it matches the meaning of the spoken language.

82. Don't prejudge - listen with an open mind and take in what is being said without coloring it with your own judgments.

83. Understand that the map is not the territory - our reality is only our perception of reality. Understanding that everyone perceives the world differently allows us to be more open-minded and accepting of ideas.

84. Don't interrupt - when you interrupt, you are telling everyone that what you have to say is more important than what anyone else has to say.

85. Get testimonials - if you do great work, ask your clients to write testimonials for you. These are the first things I read before buying anything. Never fake testimonials.

86. Don't be a know-it-all - you can't possibly know how to do everything and you don't need to. Always be transparent about what you know and don't imply that you know more that you actually do. Being human is a good thing.

87. Have passion - when I see someone who is motivated by their passion and not money, status or power, I am more inclined to trust them. Perhaps it is the feeling that they are not trying to take anything away from me but rather they are building something great.

88. Show loyalty - a person that demonstrates firm and constant support is usually a person that other people want to trust.

89. Do your research - make an effort to understand your client. The more you get them, the faster they'll think of you as an insider. Your goal is to be invited to the inner circle.

90. Give credit - the more credit you give to others, the more people will trust you. "There is no limit to the good man can do if he doesn't care who gets the credit." - Judson B. Branch

91. Have an opinion - people who never take sides have trouble building trust because they are not willing to take a stand.

92. Don't expect anything in return - help people and don't expect anything in return. You'll be happier for it and giving is always better than receiving.

93. Uphold accountability - trust is not about letting things slide. It's about doing what is best for your client.

94. Never exaggerate - it's tempting to play up the benefits about your products and services but exaggerations never end well. Any form of "truth stretching" is a bad idea if you want to build trust.

95. Make things right - when you make a mistake, in addition to learning from it, you should make it right in some way. At Pret-a-Manger, when they got my order wrong, they gave me my order for free along with a free cup of coffee. I now go twice as often.

96. Don't flatter - insincere compliments are one of the quickest ways to lose rapport and trust with someone.

97. Trust yourself - you can't give what you don't have and you can't get what you don't give (say that 5 times fast).

98. Be fair - treat people fairly. Like a good parent, don't play favorites. Reward and punish accordingly.

99. Help their children - if you have clients who have children, find a way to help their kids. You can give them advice, write a letter of recommendation or give them a job. Your deeds will definitely not be forgotten and you'll find yourself being introduced as a friend of the family.

100. Don't give up - just because someone doesn't trust you now, doesn't mean you can't build it. If what you're doing is not working, try something else. You have 101 things you can do.

101. Be enthusiastic - most people can't fake enthusiasm. When you are enthusiastic about what you do, people are more likely to trust you.

Here is bonus tip:

102. Lead by example - walk your talk.

So which trust building tips resonated with you? Were there any that I missed?

If you enjoyed this article, please share it with anyone you think might benefit from reading it.


Photo by iStockphoto

Robert Chen

Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. He helps people who feel stuck move forward by guiding them to see other possibilities for their lives. He specializes in working with high performers get to the next level. If you're going through a tough time right now, check out Robert's article on How to Feel Better Right Away and if you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.

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  1. 30 Qualities of Highly Successful People • Embrace Possibility Blog July 5, 2012 at 10:08 am - Reply

    […] and how it is one of the most important factors in achieving your goals. They also realize that the best way to build a great network is to give help to others first with no expectation of reward. Those who constantly take without […]

  2. […] Pay close attention to the answer.Paraphrasing in detail the other person’s definition to make sure you understand what they mean and that you’re both truly on the same page.Treat the person the way they want to be treated.“It’s the thought that counts”We’re taught […]

  3. Matt April 27, 2013 at 3:08 am - Reply

    You might want to consider proofreading this post, in light of the noticeable amount of spelling and grammar errors.

    • Robert Chen April 27, 2013 at 8:19 am - Reply

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for this comment. I just went back to review this post and you were right. Let me know if you see other glaring mistakes.

  4. Danielle Morales March 13, 2014 at 5:05 am - Reply

    Hey Robert!

    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post. It’s truly is inspiring.

    Personally, I believe that trust is the driving force that ensures your clients will stay loyal to you. Whether they deal with your business in person or online, it’s important that you’re transparent with your values. Aside from just providing them with a product or service, you need to show that you are invested in them for the long haul.

    Just want to share this article on how to win your client trust:

    • Robert Chen March 14, 2014 at 12:24 am - Reply

      Hi Danielle,

      Thanks for your comment and for sharing your article. Trust is what makes relationships work.

  5. Raul November 9, 2014 at 3:51 pm - Reply

    Hi, not sure if I missed anything, but is it 101 or 102 ways?

  6. melody July 31, 2015 at 9:16 pm - Reply

    how do we work on being able to or choosing to trust others? as opposed to having others trust us?
    Do i trust someone first, or wait until they prove themselves trust worthy, and then trust them?

    • Robert Chen August 1, 2015 at 1:12 pm - Reply

      Thank you for these questions Melody. My personal philosophy is to trust first because it’s hard to prove someone is trustworthy until you give them the benefit of the doubt. Of course, if your intuition tells you to keep your guard up with certain people, I would listen.

  7. JeremyJB August 24, 2015 at 11:06 am - Reply

    Great Stuff. Keep up the insightful tempo.

  8. […] and how it is one of the most important factors in achieving your goals. They also realize that the best way to build a great network is to give help to others first with no expectation of reward. Those who constantly take without […]

  9. Ricky Payusan March 4, 2016 at 5:56 am - Reply

    nice blog..don’t forget to visit my blog http://rickylovetips.blogspot.com/

  10. […] something and give it away for free. It will build trust. Everyone wants to be […]

  11. charlotte April 8, 2016 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    I really like this article. 🙂 Good job

  12. Ersilia Tarantino July 27, 2016 at 4:50 am - Reply

    Hi Robert I thank you so much for this lovely article and it has really helped me to get over doubt and understand trust. The one point that jumped out at me the most, is in one of the 101 ways you say “give them the benefit of the doubt”…… I reflected on this and it was quite strong for me. For me when saying this we are implying that there are benefits in doubting and so the brain thinks oh great its good to doubt. I realised this was what has happened with me, a belief that doubt is beneficial. Not at all, I realised there are no benefits to doubt and the energy of doubt is very disempowering compared to the energy of trust which empowers us to be strong and go further. I am is going to make sure that people start taking this sentence out of their vocabulary, as words have such a strong effect on us as children, we believe them. Therefore I will no longer give anyone the benefit of the doubt but I will trust they know what they are doing.

    How lovely and thank you so much

    • Robert Chen July 27, 2016 at 8:11 am - Reply

      Thank you for sharing that Ersilia. You’re so right that words are powerful and can shape how we see and experience the world.

  13. […] you like to research as you brainstorm, this list of 101 Simple Ways to Build Trust will be a nice launching pad for […]

  14. […] 101 simple ways to build trust […]

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