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Trust is one of those concepts that can mean different things to different people. Some people describe it as a feeling, a primary example is when people say “I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I just don’t trust him.” This kind of gut response isn’t very helpful, so based on my experiences, both good and bad, I have developed the following three-part description of trust: Perceived Credibility, Demonstrated Reliability, and Assumed Good Intent.

Perceived Credibility is akin to the resume. The first question we generally think about when we are deciding whether we can trust someone – in a business context, at least – is “Do I believe you can do what you say you can?” For this, we look for evidence of previous results and referrals from people we already trust.

Next, Demonstrated Reliability is like the proof point for our credibility, harder both to earn and to maintain. The question on our mind here is “Do you actually deliver what you say you will?” We look for examples of where a person’s promises translate into actions, and where their potential manifests itself into concrete results.

Somewhat more difficult to classify in my trust description is the notion of Assumed Good Intent, yet I believe this is the most important element of trust. The questions in our mind when we think about good intent are “What is your motivation here? What do you stand to gain? How much of the real you do I see, and how much is a performance?”

By breaking trust down into its three component parts, we have the ability to not only understand it, but to build it.

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