The Importance of Trust in Relationships: Personal & Professional

This article gives you a glimpse of what you can learn with Shortform. Shortform has the world’s best guides to 1000+ nonfiction books, plus other resources to help you accelerate your learning.

Want to learn faster and get smarter? Sign up for a free trial here .

What’s the importance of trust in relationships? How does trust encourage honesty and motivation?

If your relationships at work or in your personal life need a little improvement, you likely need to build some trust. Trust goes a long way for someone, and it’s the key to keeping a relationship standing when something wants to tear it down.

Below we’ll explore why trust is important in relationships, both in a professional and personal sense.

What Is Trust? 

Before getting into the importance of trust in relationships, we need to understand what trust is. According to Stephen Covey’s The Speed of Trust, trust comes from credibility, which has four components: principles, motives, skills, and track record. He calls these the “four cores of credibility.” We’ll refer to them as the building blocks of trust. To merit trust in any situation, you must display all four building blocks of trust. Any missing or questionable building block can erode people’s trust in you and your trust in yourself. 

According to Covey, the first two building blocks of trust, your principles and motives, are a function of your nature. Your principles shape how you interpret and respond to your circumstances. For instance, if you hold to the principle of charity, you’ll be a respectful listener even when you find another person’s argument distasteful or misinformed. 

Your principles also inform your motives which, in turn, drive your actions. To continue the example, your commitment to the principle of charity means you are genuinely motivated to understand other people’s perspectives, which is why you choose to actively listen instead of interrupting.

The second two building blocks of trust, skills and track record, are a function of your abilities, which are situational. For people to trust you, Covey argues, you need to have the appropriate skills for a given situation. For example, your parents can have complete trust in your principles and motives, but unless you’re a builder, they probably won’t trust you to build them a house.

Your track record refers to your history of getting things done. It doesn’t matter how qualified you are on paper or how much people trust your nature; if you don’t produce results, you can’t expect people to trust you. 

These building blocks of trust are crucial in both a professional and personal setting. Let’s explore the importance of trust in relationships in both of these settings.

Why Professional Relationships Need Trust

Companies thrive thanks to the help of professional relationships. Leaders need to have trust in their employees and vice versa, and employees need to have trust in each other. Here’s why trust is important in relationships at work.

Trust Is the Foundation of Culture

Start With Why by Simon Sinek claims that trust in relationships is important because it’s the foundational building block of culture. Culture emerges when a group of people who believe and value the same things unites around those shared ideals.  When we are around people who think like us, we start to trust them. 

On an individual level, we form communities with people who share similar beliefs, values, and ideals. Consequently, companies with strong values tend to attract like-minded people and create a sense of belonging. That’s why these companies tend to have strong cultures and high levels of trust, both internally and externally.  

In turn, being in a community of people who are there for the same reasons builds trust. We believe that someone who shares our beliefs is also more likely to have our back and not take advantage of us.

  • Consider hiring a babysitter. You don’t know much about this person, other than that she’s from the same community and thus might have the same values as you. Yet you trust this near-stranger with taking care of people dearest to you – your children.

In turn, having trust allows people to take risks

  • If you didn’t trust your babysitter, you wouldn’t take the risk of leaving your house to have a night out.
  • Similarly, in the workplace, if you didn’t trust your leadership or team to take care of you, if you took a risk and failed, you wouldn’t take that risk.
  • Without trust, people will worry about protecting themselves, which is the cause of office politics. 

How Trust and Culture Motivate Great Results

When a group of people who trust each other has a cause, challenge, or goal to chase, it creates a strong sense of teamwork. This gives employees something to work toward, which is how great ideas happen. This is very different from average companies, which just give people things to work on. In these situations, people do their jobs and nothing more.

It’s the job of a great leader to create a trusting environment where inspired work can happen. Great leaders create strong company cultures where everyone works toward the same goal.

An inspired team that trusts each other shows many benefits, including: 

  • Creating space for innovation.
    • When employees understand the company’s purpose, they feel a personal challenge to explore new ways to bring the purpose to life. Steve Jobs didn’t personally build the Mac or the iPod, but he gave his talented team the context around which to innovate and explore the options for bringing the purpose to life.
  • Ignoring competition.
    • When a company is only concerned with the competition, they get into a commodities race. They make small tweaks to features in response to other companies, instead of innovating. 
    • When a team focuses on their unique purpose, they can put on blinders and build things that align with their mission, regardless of what others are doing.
  • Persisting through failure and hard work.
    • When employees have a clear sense of what they’re trying to achieve, they’re more likely to embrace and move through failure. Failure becomes a step on the way to the goal rather than a catastrophic setback. 
    • Inspiration revolutionizes employees’ perspectives on their jobs. Employees start to see even their least favorite tasks as necessary for achieving their goals.
  • More trust in the team.
    • When leaders show that they trust their employees, employees begin to trust themselves and each other.
    • Inspired people realize that everyone—from the CEO down to the most entry-level worker—needs each other to reach their common goal. 
    • Employees are less focused on self-gain, but instead, do what’s best for the mission and the organization as a whole.
  • More trust in leadership.
    • Trust from leadership is also reciprocated—employees will believe in their leaders more if they feel inspired and motivated.
    • Inspired employees feel protected in their companies and by their leaders because they feel leadership makes decisions in service of a greater purpose rather than their own self-gain. That gives employees the confidence to take risks, explore, be creative, and push the company forward. 

Trust Makes Employees Feel Important

The second reason trust is important in relationships at work is that it makes your employees feel valued. When you build trusting relationships with your team and let them bring their whole selves to work, you can better understand their needs and make sure their work is meaningful to them, which naturally makes them feel important to the team. According to Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor, these trusting relationships can’t be forced—rather, they’re developed through repeated demonstrations of practicing self-care, giving your team autonomy, and respecting boundaries. 

Self-care helps you lay the foundations of trusting relationships, in two ways. First, if you’re overwhelmed and stressed, problems feel insurmountable or may cause you to snap at someone who doesn’t deserve it. Second, it’s difficult to show care for other people if you’re wrapped up in your own problems. Without personal care, you can’t build trusting relationships. 

Giving your team autonomy naturally bolsters your relationships. When employees feel that you’re using power and control to force them to do their best, they become resentful and disengaged. On the other hand, when they feel a sense of agency and autonomy, they choose to bring their best selves to their work, which leads to better collaboration and results. 

Respecting boundaries is important to meaningful relationship-building—when you care personally about your relationships, you make an effort to learn about your employees’ whole selves, while being conscious of their limits. You’ll have to navigate what “boundaries” look like for each person—everyone reacts differently to the idea of sharing their personal lives with their boss. 

Why Personal Relationships Need Trust

Trust is inarguably the foundation of personal relationships. Without trust, it’s nearly impossible to be honest with one another and show how much you value the relationship. 

Let’s dive into these reasons by exploring the importance of trust in relationships that you want to uphold in your personal life.

Trust Encourages Honesty

In his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson explains that partners have to trust each other enough to be honest: to say what they really think and feel and to tolerate rejection (saying no and hearing no).

A relationship isn’t healthy if both parties aren’t honest with each other. Lies are deceiving and form cracks in the relationship that will break open eventually. If you’re not willing to show that you trust your partner, then they’ll be more susceptible to lie to you.

According to Manson, that means being honest about even simple things—for instance, if your partner asks whether you like her new haircut, and you really don’t care for it. Many partners lie to avoid short-term discomfort in answering such questions, but honesty in a relationship is more important than feeling good in the moment. Being honest about small things sets the stage for being honest about bigger things. 

He adds that trust makes conflict and differences easier to navigate. When you trust your partner, you know that you can get past these conflicts. It’s just a matter of having an open and honest conversation. And if you feel comfortable around your partner, being vulnerable about your feelings will be easy. 

Conflict is necessary because when people can disagree, it means the relationship isn’t conditional or dependent on keeping one or the other happy.

  • If someone always agrees with you, they’re not being honest and you can’t trust what they say. Working out differences openly is preferable to manipulation and dissembling.

Trust Shows Value and Effort

In The Speed of Trust, Covey says that trust is as valuable as any other asset, such as property and bank account balances. When you trust someone, you show that you value your relationship and will put in the effort to maintain it. 

Trust sets the tone of every interpersonal interaction. You can think of trust as an “account” in every relationship. Every interaction in a relationship makes either a deposit into or withdrawal from both parties’ accounts. The “balance” in people’s trust accounts sets the tone for their interactions.

  • For example, if your partner asks you to do the dishes and you fulfill this request, this is a deposit. They trust you enough to carry out favors in the future because you did the dishes. But ignoring their request is a withdrawal. They lost trust in them because you didn’t do a small favor. It makes your partner believe that you don’t value the relationship enough to do one simple task.

Covey notes that everyone’s trust accounts are unique. What constitutes a deposit into your account could be seen as a withdrawal to someone else, and what may seem like a small withdrawal to you could be huge for someone else. For example, say you tell your friend you will meet her for coffee but cancel at the last minute. To you, this might seem like a small thing, but it might be a huge withdrawal for her. 

The more withdrawals you make, the less your friend or partner will have faith that you care about your relationship with them. And because trust is the foundation of every relationship, the relationship will slowly crumble over time until it’s broken beyond repair.

Final Words

Without trust, a relationship barely has anything to keep it together. If you’re at work, a lack of trust could mean detrimental consequences for your company. Regarding a romantic partner or friend, no trust means the end of a potentially life-long relationship. Show others you care about them and what they’re worth, and they’ll reciprocate the same to you.

What are other reasons that demonstrate the importance of trust in relationships? Let us know in the comments below!

The Importance of Trust in Relationships: Personal & Professional

Want to fast-track your learning? With Shortform, you’ll gain insights you won't find anywhere else .

Here's what you’ll get when you sign up for Shortform :

  • Complicated ideas explained in simple and concise ways
  • Smart analysis that connects what you’re reading to other key concepts
  • Writing with zero fluff because we know how important your time is

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.