Reading time: 3 minutes Sep 30th 2010

For the last couple of years, I have struggled with the concept of trust in the business world. We hear the old phrases ‘you can’t trust anyone’ or ‘everyone is out for themselves’. Sometimes in business and in life it can be easy to fall victim to believing this. But there is a far better way of thinking about things rather than to have this black and white perspective.

Trust is something that crops up in all sorts of situations from relationships to friendships as well as in business. The most obvious breach of trust is outright lying or cheating and there are many acceptable breaches such as telling the other person they look great when you don’t think they do. The term ‘trust’ is usually reserved for the big issues.

Like most people I know, I have been burned by people in business. They say one thing that you believe and it turns out when push comes to shove that they weren’t really thinking that way and they were just words. The words came out and you took them in and, unfortunately for you, you were the only one who believed them.

So, many times people will make promises to you. They will get you excited and motivated by showing their enthusiasm for what you have to offer. But they may never buy nor have any intention of buying. Sometimes they will take everything you have to offer and lead you on but when it comes down to it, they will walk away.

This is the tough cruel corporate world we live in. So what is the answer?

Well, I have recently come to realize that when you trust someone, you are not only trusting their morals and honesty and integrity as a person, you are trusting their intentions and desires at the time. You are not trusting them as a person but what they are saying to you. You can assume that they are saying what they are saying for a particular reason. Sometimes it is because they believe it and really do want to do business with you. Sometimes it is because they want to make you like them or feel good. Sometimes they want to get as much out of you as possible. Sometimes they aren’t sure if they want your product so while they are waiting they get themselves in the best possible position to accept it or not.

So, when you understand that you won’t know the reason… you can simply appreciate their statement is the first level of trust. Once they actually take a step in the right direction and actually do something to follow up with their commitments, that is the second level. Sometimes when they are on the first level if they have a good track record of following through you can have more confidence in them. But ultimately, regardless of what level they are on, or their track record, it’s important to always have a back up plan made to ensure that you prepare for the possibility of them betraying your trust. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that often the people you think you can’t trust aren’t the ones that let you down and it is the people that you think you can which you have to look out for.

Can people be trusted in business? Absolutely. As long as you accept they have their own agendas and you watch their track record in following through on promises, you will have a good idea of whether or not it’s a good decision. Furthermore, if they just say something versus taking action it’s a different kind of signal. The trick is to remember trust is a multi-step process not an all-in-one commitment. It’s not black and white but it’s something that depends on a number of factors. So, people in business can be trusted… to different degrees at different times.

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