According to Relationship Science™, the stronger communication is the easier it is to accomplish cooperation goals. With that in mind, every person has an internal trust bank account in which other people constantly make withdrawals and deposits. Deposits increase trust, withdrawals decrease trust. Simple enough, right?
The trust bank account might look like this:
At first meeting, you probably have a low, default level of trust for a complete stranger. The figure above and to the right is the trust bank account after a single deposit. They’ve done something kind for you, and as a result you trust them a little more based on that one action.
But building trust capital takes time. It takes hundreds or thousands of little actions, or a few incredibly big actions, to amass a large balance in someone’s trust bank account. However, it doesn’t take much, even after many years, to completely wipe out that balance with a few withdrawals. Why?
Humans are risk averse; Trust withdrawals are usually much larger in size than the average deposit (see below). Betray someone’s trust once or twice and they will likely err on the side of not trusting you much. Withdrawals create skepticism and can quickly undo lots of work because we need strong indicators of trust for relationships to be productive. Without trust, it’s probably a bad idea to cooperate.
In the above figure, despite years of small deposits, trust was severely eroded after just two withdrawals…that’s all it takes! So how do you build wealth in the trust bank account? What do deposits look like?
How do you make deposits in someone’s trust bank?
Making deposits is a matter of signalling love and support. You don’t need to wait for a test of trust, like keeping a secret or protecting a million-dollar suitcase. You can make deposits regularly with actions that scream “I’m on your team…I have your back!”
Trust is implicitly part of a loving and supporting action, because these actions signal “I’m your ally.” And that’s what trust is — the knowledge that someone else is going to make your life better, even when they are presented with an opportunity for personal gain at your expense. Signalling loving and supporting actions over and over and over is inherently trust-building.
Here are some examples of simple trust deposits that don’t have to do with guarding a prized possession or keeping a devastating secret:
- Productively helping someone with a small task without asking for anything in return
- Listening to — without arguing — and understanding someone’s desires and feelings
- Being honest with OTHER people in front of someone
You signal a lot to someone by the way you treat other people. Lying or deceiving other people in front of someone communicates that you are capable and willing of such behavior. The opposite — trusting, supporting and helping others — signals to someone that you are willing and capable of loving, productive behavior…which builds trust.
After all, that’s what trust capital is: It’s the likelihood that someone is truly an ally. That when the chips are down, they will support you and make you better. Building trust capital is necessary for building rewarding relationships that make your life better.