10 Easy Ways to Destroy Trust

charliebrown and lucy

Article Contributed by Amy Sargent

How many times have we watched it happen? He takes a few steps backward in preparation to kick, that confident look of determination spreading across his face. This time we really want to see it. Just once. He charges forward at top speed to launch the pigskin to the other side of the field–and at the very last minute, she adeptly pulls the football away, causing him to land flat on his back in embarrassment and, I’d guess a considerable amount of pain.  If you were Charlie Brown, would you ever trust Lucy again?

Stephen M.R. Covey, in his book The Speed of Trust, says this:  “The first job of a leader—at work or at home—is to inspire trust. It’s to bring out the best in people by entrusting them with meaningful stewardships, and to create an environment in which high-trust interaction inspires creativity and possibility.” 

Trust is a competency of social and emotional intelligence that must be cultivated in order to gain the respect and following of others. Without it, our relationships fall apart because of our inability to create a safe atmosphere of dependability and reliability.  Listen to how Brian Tracy, Canadian author and speaker, puts it:

“The glue that holds all relationships together–including the relationship between the leader and the led–is trust, and trust is based on integrity.”

Trust is a component that is simply vital to our relationships with others, period. And interestingly, while it takes a long time to build trust, it takes only an instant to dismantle it.

Here are ten sure-fire ways to destroy others’ trust in you:

  • Betray confidences. If you gossip and share damaging information about others, it may temporarily make you feel better about yourself, and create a temporary affinity between you and the person you’re sharing with, but know that they will be thinking, “If you’re willing to talk about others behind their back, what will keep you from talking about me?”
  • Blame others for your mistakes. I know, it’s difficult to say “It’s my fault” or “I messed up.” It’s so much easier to point the finger at others when things go awry. But blame-shifting won’t go without notice.  It’s like a dimmer switch on respect.
  • Break your promises. There’s not much that devours trust more than not following through on what you’ll say you’ll do. Of course there are times when something comes up that you have to change your plans. But if you are consistently one who doesn’t deliver, others’ trust in you will be diminished.
  • Remain closed-off and never share personal matters of the heart. Obviously there is a time and place to tell all, but the lack of ability to share with appropriate self-disclosure will create a barrier between you and your teams. The “me too” mentality goes a long way in building bridges and helping others realize that you are all in this together. Without it, high walls of distrust are quickly constructed.
  • Be explosive and unpredictable. Have you ever blown a tire while driving? The sudden explosion can startle even the best of drivers and make steering extremely difficult, creating strong doubt that the car is going to perform as it should. If you are constantly letting your anger cause a knee-jerk reaction that ‘no one saw coming’, their trust in your performance will be left behind on the side of the road like pieces of shredded, burned rubber.
  • Tell little white lies, and while you’re at it, tell some whoppers, too. Not speaking truth can get you out of some sticky situations, but when the dishonesty is discovered (and these things have a way of somehow always making it to the surface), then how will people know when you are being honest and when you are not? Friedrich Neitzche, a German philosopher, said this: “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
  • Talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. I once knew an instructor who facilitated workshops on the importance of living authentically, tapping into the help of an accountability partner, but covertly hid her own dark, hurtful behaviors from even her closest friends and family. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) the issues became public, and her credibility as a speaker on the topic was lost.
  • When conflict arises, turn on those close to you. Disagreements are a part of being in relationship. There are healthy ways to resolve conflict and unhealthy ways. Choosing to shut people out, quitting relationships (or being quick on the trigger to fire employees) is an easy fix—and a great way to destroy trust.  [Note there are times when boundaries need to be set with very unhealthy people in your life and relationships do need to be ended.  But if quitting is your go-to technique for resolving all conflicts, know that you are doing a good job of ruining trust].
  • Always put your own best interests ahead of everyone else’s. When others don’t feel like you regard what is important to them, their engagement and excitement for your plans, visions and dreams will wane. Believe it or not, making a habit of putting others first causes them to believe in you, trusting that you really care. To keep trust levels low, be sure to never consider the needs and desires of those around you.
  • Consistently treat some people better than others. It’s the old saying, ‘Watch how he treats the waiter’. If you are a respecter of persons, rolling out the red carpet for some while trampling others underfoot will breed a fair amount of disrespect and distrust.

Again, in the words of Stephen M.R. Covey,

“Above all, success in business requires two things: a winning competitive strategy, and superb organizational execution. Distrust is the enemy of both.” I submit that while high trust won’t necessarily rescue a poor strategy, low trust will almost always derail a good one.”

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