How To Build Trust

Trust is the foundation of all healthy relationships. 

At heart, it is the belief that someone will do what they say they will.

Building trust is a key part of being assertive, and covered in our assertiveness training.

Why Is Trust Important?

Life is complicated, and knowing you can rely on somebody else makes it that much easier.

Being trustworthy makes people feel more secure around you and frees up their energy to do other things. 

In your personal and private life, when people know they can trust you, it also increases their willingness to listen to your ideas and opinions – you become more influential. They know that you will listen to theirs.

Let’s look have a more detailed look at trust:

Also check out our guide for difficult conversations here, as these topics go hand in hand!

9 Ways To Build Trust

The good news is that you can start building trust as soon as you’re meeting someone.

It is possible to build trust relatively quickly. 

1. Tell the truth

Don’t lie. Nothing corrodes trust faster than a lie. 

Try to say what you mean and mean what you say. 

Sometimes we think it’s ok to tell a ‘white lie’ and avoid a difficult situation.

Usually, the opposite happens.

People lie because telling the truth is harder, and it seems like an easy way out, but your words and actions will lack integrity, and people can often sense this. People often feel uncomfortable with someone who is lying, even if they don’t know why. Instinctively, they don’t trust them.

To build trust, stick to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. 

2. Keep your promises

Follow through on commitments

If you do, people will learn that they can rely on you.

When you let other people down, it creates doubt in their mind about all of your future commitments. This will prevent them from relying on you in the future, which harms their trust in you. 

3. Learn effective communication

When you talk to people, you must ensure the message intended is the message received. 

Always aim for clarity in your speech, make eye contact, listen carefully and try not to assume anything. 

If you don’t know, ask – even if you think it makes you look stupid. 

Communicating clearly avoids a lot of the smaller misunderstandings that can undermine trust. 

4. Be willing to admit your mistakes

No one is perfect.

Have you ever tried to cover up or avoid dealing with mistakes because you were afraid it would make you look bad when people found out? 

When you make mistakes and admit to them, it shows the other person you respect them enough to tell the truth, and you are mature enough to admit a mistake. 

It also helps to take away the fear that in future, you won’t own up if there is a problem.

They will know that owning up isn’t easy, but respect and trust you all the more for it. They know they can rely on you to be straight with them.

5. Be emotionally open

Trusting others means being vulnerable. You are relying on them one way or the other. 

If you open up to someone, you are being vulnerable with them. This, in turn, shows them that they can be vulnerable with you, and this builds trust.

Reciprocity is a fundamental human behaviour, and when you show trust in someone, they, in turn, are far more likely to trust you.

6. Have the courage to say ‘No’

Often, people with ‘people pleasing’ tendencies are afraid to say no – even when they want to – because they don’t want to upset anyone.

However, occasionally saying ‘No’ will actually help to build trust in your relationships

When you say ‘No’ to someone (politely!), they know that you are being honest with them and appreciate that it’s difficult. 

An occasional ‘No’ that is a sign that they can trust what you are saying in other conversations as well. 

You’re not just going along with them for an easy life.

7. Be generous with your contributions

When working in a group, many people do the least that they think they can get away with.

They try to benefit from the work of others.

If you do the opposite and contribute generously, that is an act of trust in the group. It is assuming that there is a win-win outcome if everyone contributes significantly.

You’re showing that you trust them to do their part and that you’re not going to try to freewheel and let them do all the work. 

If you’re generous with your contributions, people will naturally trust you.

Conversely, if you do the least possible, people won’t trust you. They will worry that you’re always looking to see what is in something for yourself and not thinking about others.

8. Be generous with praise

Don’t blow your own horn. Champion the efforts of others.

They will notice that you’ve taken the opportunity to highlight their contribution and not put yourself first. 

This is a great demonstration of the fact that you can be trusted. You’re not just looking out for yourself. 

9. Be consistent

It is difficult to trust someone who acts inconsistently. 

Even if they seemed trustworthy yesterday, you can’t tell how they’ll act today. This means that it’s very difficult to trust them.

Behaving consistently means that people feel they can accurately predict your behaviour.

If you have acted in a trustworthy fashion in the past, you will most likely act in the same way in the future.

3 Things People Get Wrong About Trust

No-one is perfect. We all screw up sometimes.

If you’ve screwed up and broken someone’s trust, here are the 3 steps to getting it back:

1. Trust is soft

Trust is incredibly powerful.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s soft or fluffy. It makes a huge difference.

Trust is the foundation of all relationships, organisations, and civilisations. Studies have shown the power of trust, as higher-trust organisations tend to outperform low trust ones. 

If you’ve ever had to deal with a hostile audience who don’t trust you, you’ll know the value of trust!

2. Telling people what you think they want to hear

Feigning interest in something in order to be liked erodes trust. 

At some point, it will become obvious, and then the other person will begin to wonder about your motives and why you are acting that way. 

When building trust, it’s better to be open about what you do and don’t like. People pleasers come across as weak and fake at best, and emotionally manipulative at worst. Neither helps you to build trust!

3. It can’t be forced

Although trust can be built pretty quickly, it can’t be forced.

Healthy relationships take time to grow, and trust develops with them. 

Don’t try to rush or force things. Let things develop naturally.

Re-Establishing Trust 

Sometimes trust can be eroded through small mistakes, or it can be broken by a single act of betrayal.

This can happen in a marriage, with friends and family, or at work with employees.

The steps to rebuild trust are the same in every case. 

1. Take responsibility

You must take responsibility for your actions.

Until you take responsibility for your behaviour, you can’t start dealing with its consequences. 

You must come clean about what you did and admit it was wrong. Your words and actions should show genuine sorrow for the damage done and the hurt caused. 

2. Give them time

Taking responsibility goes a long way to re-establishing trust, but you must understand it can take time for the other person to process their emotions. 

You should be willing to do what it takes to heal the broken trust, but you also have to respect the fact that the other person might require some time.

3. Show That You Have Changed

Talk is cheap.

You need to show the other person that you have changed whatever it was that caused the breakdown in trust.

Take time to reflect on what you did. 

When you understand why you did what you did, you then need to come up with a plan to avoid making the same mistake again. 

If you can consistently show that you have fixed your behaviour, it will go a long way to re-establishing trust. 


Without trust, life would be very difficult.

We couldn’t rely on each other, but no one can do everything on their own. 

Building trust is key to relationships and success across the board. It is a key life skill.

So if you want to be more successful at work and at home, start using the tips above.

For more on communication, check out our communication statistics here!


About Ben Richardson

Ben is a director of Acuity Training which he has been running for over 10 years.

He is a Natural Sciences graduate from the University of Cambridge and a qualified accountant with the ICAEW.

He previously worked as a venture capitalist and banker and so had extensive experience with Excel from building financial models before moving to learn SQL, Microsoft Power BI and other technologies more recently.