The #1 Way to Build Trust With Others

May 13, 2020

Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with the former head of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, Robin Dreeke. Though we discussed a wide range of topics, we spent most of our time talking about the concept of “trust”.

Robin has spent quite a bit of time thinking about that concept. Before he left the FBI, he spent years working to recruit foreign spies to join his side.

If one is to go about doing something as challenging as that, you’ve got to know a thing or two about building trust and doing it quickly.

So what makes someone trustworthy?

Robin suggests that there is one quality above all that makes someone trustworthy: predictability.

It’s not exactly that sexy, is it? But give this some thought and you will start to see how true this rings.

If someone is unpredictable, I probably wouldn’t count on them to do me a favour. I definitely wouldn’t rely on them to come to a meeting on time. In more extreme cases, if a person in the streets occurred to me as highly unpredictable, I might even be worried for my safety.

On the other hand, if someone is predictable, I would be more inclined to ask them to give me a hand with something. I’d more likely count on them showing up to my presentation the following week. And certainly, if I deemed someone predictable, I would feel safe around them (unless, of course, they were predictably unpredictable… but let’s keep things simple for now).

You can start to see that the more predictable someone’s behaviour is, the more likely you might be willing to trust them.

And the same can be said for your own behaviour: the more predictable your behaviour, the more willing people will be to trust you.

Admittedly when I first heard this, I was thrown off. I saw myself as a very trustworthy person. But would I call myself predictable? Heck no.

I love adventure, taking risks, exploring new places/activities, and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone as much as possible. In January I moved to a new continent I had never set foot on, to run my business and start a non-profit. What is predictable about that? My life is anything but predictable!

But here was my lightbulb moment: When I look beyond those things, there is an underlying value of mine that consistently drives all of my actions.

That value is “Integrity” (a.k.a. honouring my word).

For me, integrity is the king of all values. It is the value that supersedes all other values. If you are not prioritizing your integrity, then odds are your other values won’t be prioritized either. If you’re not prioritizing honouring your word, then what does it matter what values you live by? You’re most likely just flapping your lips, not honouring your word.

And as it relates to trust and predictability: if you are not honouring your word, then anything you say loses a bit of credibility.

Think about it: you say you’re going to do something, and then you do exactly that. Not only that, but you reliably follow through on what you say every time. You are consistently aligning your words with your actions. It’s predictable that you’re going to follow through with what you say.

When integrity is related back to trust and predictability, there is a clear link. Someone who lives with integrity is predictably true to their word. If I see someone consistently following through on what they say they are going to do, I am going to trust them more.

Now, you’re probably thinking that you already live with plenty of integrity. 

To determine if that’s true, here is a quick litmus test:

  1. Have you ever been late for an appointment? Consider you lacked integrity in that moment. For example, if you had a meeting that started at 10am and you arrived at 10:03am, you’re not being your word. There is nothing wrong or bad about it, it’s just a lack of integrity.
  2. Are you an environmentalist of any kind? Does taking care of our planet and polluting less matter to you? Get clear for yourself how often you drive cars, go on airplanes, eat meat, or buy groceries wrapped in way, way too much plastic. There is nothing wrong with not aligning yourself here, it just lacks integrity to say you care about the planet while being wasteful.
  3. Are you a law-abiding citizen? Have you ever done anything illegal? Maybe you’ve downloaded a pirated movie, parked illegally or jaywalked? And yet, don’t you think it is important for us all to obey the laws of society? Consider that your desire for us all to function in working, law-abiding society and your willingness to break laws is a simple lack of integrity.

I’m not bringing these examples up to blame or shame or make you feel bad about where you’re not being your word. These are all things that I struggle with in my life too. I also lack integrity. But I am grounded in the fact that I lack integrity in those areas and am constantly shifting my life to live more in a way that honours what I say.

Bringing more integrity to your life is a summitless mountain. It is also incredibly enriching and is your direct access to building more trust with others.

The cherry on top of this all: raising your level of integrity builds trust for yourself. You begin to trust yourself more. That brings about more confidence, less self-doubt, less anxiety, and a slew of other benefits. This is the most potent of all benefits living a life of integrity will bring.

How does one bring more integrity to their life? Here are some simple practices worth considering:

  1. Only make commitments you know you can keep
  2. Be on time, every time
  3. Don’t lie or gossip
  4. Align your life with your values as much as possible

And if you’re ever not being your word, own up to it and clean up any messes you may have caused. Talk to anyone who has been impacted by your broken word as soon as you can! The moment you are seen as not being integral by someone, trust begins to erode.

By taking this on and making it a habit, not only will others around you start trusting you more, but more importantly you will know yourself to be someone who lives a life of integrity, lives a life of being their word. 

Trust me when I say that that is a life worth living.


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