What Variables Impact How Freely We Extend Trust?

Variables of Trust

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The recent post Should Trust Be Freely Offered or Conditionally Earned? generated lively discussions in LinkedIn Groups about extending trust when we meet someone new. It was clear from reading the discussions that trust has many different dimensions.

Readers shared how they perceived trust – some saw it as an emotion, some saw it as a relationship, others described it as a mindset. They took the discussion beyond the original question and explored how we extend trust to others based on many variables.

Here is a partial list of the variables that impact how freely we extend trust, based on reader comments. What would you add?

Variables That Impact How Freely We Extend Trust

  1. Our Openness to Learning
  2. Our Past Experiences, Stereotypes and Misinformation (What We Believe is True)
  3. The Other Person’s Reliability and Morality Based on Our Experience With Them
  4. The Level of Our Relationship With the Other Person
  5. Our Perception (Glass Half Full or Half Empty) and Approach to Life
  6. Whether or Not We Share Values or Common Goals With the Other Person
  7. The Perceived Level of Risk in the Situation (and Our Level of Fear)
  8. Our Expectations About How Trustworthy the Person Will Be
  9. How Much the Other Person Has Extended Trust to Us
  10. How Clear the Communication is Between Us
  11. Our Perception of How Capable the Other Person Is
  12. Our Perception of the Other Person’s Motives
  13. The Other Person’s Behavior

In spite of how many variables readers mentioned that impact how freely we extend trust, the majority felt strongly that it is still good to freely extend trust. Below are some of the reasons they named for freely extending trust when we meet someone new.

Reasons Why We Should Extend Trust Freely 

  • Most people are honorable
  • Extending trust is leading by example, showing the other person the way we would like to be trusted
  • Our lives will be unhappy if we mistrust everyone
  • As we trust others, they are more likely to trust us back

Special thanks to the many readers who posted insightful comments in response to the original post. I’ll leave you with this quote:

“Someone who thinks the world is always cheating him is right. He is missing that wonderful feeling of trust in someone or something.” – Eric Hoffer

Linda Fisher Thornton is CEO of Leading in Context LLC, a leadership development consulting firm, and was recently named one of the 2013 Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior. Her mission is to clarify what it means to lead responsibly in a complex world.

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC

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About Linda Fisher Thornton
Author of 7 Lenses, Speaker, Bringing Out the Best in People and Organizations Through Proactive Ethical Leadership, CEO Leading in Context, 2014 Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior, Adj. Assist. Prof. of Ethics and Leadership, UR SPCS

6 Responses to What Variables Impact How Freely We Extend Trust?

  1. Thanks so much Greg for letting me know how you found this article! And thanks for adding “our nature” – how our individual nature affects how freely we extend trust.

  2. Greg Marcus says:

    Hi Linda,

    I think this is a great list. One thing I would add is our nature. Some people are naturally trusting, and some people are not. Some of this comes from experience, but I think some is innate.

    I agree with your comments that most people are good, but in a business context that doesn’t mean that we should extend trust to everyone. There are some genuinely bad actors out there who will take advantage of people who are more trusting. I don’t worry about customers as I do about co-workers.

    PS – I found your article on the Frontline Festival.

  3. Pingback: Frontline Festival-May 2013: Trust and Transparency Edition - Let's Grow Leaders

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