What Do We Know About Trust?

How many times have you heard “trust is declining,” “we need more trust,” or “rebuild trust.”

Do we?  A google search turned up our opinions about trust in government:


In a recent TEDx Talk, Onora O’Neill posited that when we talk about “trusting” someone, we’re really not speaking of trust itself, but of trustworthiness:  that is, a person’s competency in the relevant matter as well as that person’s reliability and honesty.

As an example, I provide general counsel to businesses, litigation and mediation services. So while I might be good at giving counsel, advocating for or against, or resolving differences regarding a contract matter, I would not be considered “trustworthy” to defend anyone on a murder charge because I am not competent in the relevant subject matter–criminal defense.  Stated differently, I “could not be trusted” to win a murder trial.

If you’re a client you may rely upon me to provide good counsel for your business, but remembering to put my coffee cup in the dishwasher each day? Not so reliable….And we only need to flick on the news or read the paper to see that there are plenty of competent, reliable people who are simply just not honest.

There are whole books devoted to trust, “building” it, and even the speed at which it can be built.  All good points to reflect and ponder.  However, at its core, trust itself is unique because it can’t be authentically “built” by one person in another. Is that because trust itself is really something that must be freely given?

The graphic above from Gallup seems to reinforce the point as does a brief reflection on the federal government shutdown.

In short, “establishing” trust requires honesty, reliability and competency.  These require a thorough understanding of who we are, what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

About Chris McGrath

I'm a Carmel, Indiana business attorney providing business counsel, commercial litigation and mediation services based on over 20 years of experience. My firm is founded on a principle of supporting others' advancement and achievement, and my core values are service, passion, faith & loyalty.Chris McGrath's Google+ Profile